Discovered in 1998 by sea cucumber divers in the Java Sea, the cargo from the Belitung shipwreck consists of 60, 000 Tang dynasty artifacts, ranging from common wares to precious ceramics and gold pieces, all found in an Arab dhow ship. Besides being the largest discovery of Tang artifacts yet, the Belitung shipwreck confirmed the existence of an important maritime trade route between the Middle East and China as far back as the 9th century. An invaluable find, the collection made its debut on the international stage at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore within a travelling exhibition designed by gsmprjct°création.
Faced with the challenge of transforming the presentation of a static collection into an emotional journey to which visitors can relate, gsmprjct° recreated the human journey of the Belitung ship, from the context of 9th century maritime trade and the ship’s crew, to the traumatic experience of the shipwreck and the painstaking recovery of the cargo from the depths.
The journey begins in an environment reminiscent of ancient ships and quays, with warm sunlight and the sounds of a busy port, where visitors learn about the historical context of the ship’s voyage and the ship’s crew. The mood shifts in the next room, whose maelstrom ambience evokes the shipwreck. Finally, the visitors get a chance to marvel, like divers and archaeologists before them, at the alluring collection of artifacts, from common pottery to precious gold metalwork, in an evocative aquatic setting. While revealing much, the exhibition ends on a contemplative note, inviting visitors to reflect on the many questions still remaining about the Belitung shipwreck.