Palmwood Shipwreck dress returned to Texel

Just when you think you’ve seen and handled it all, HIZKIA Amsterdam proves that working in fine art transport never fails to surprise thanks to a small role in a big story.

A shipwreck excavated by unassuming local divers from the Dutch island of Texel in 2014 yielded some incredibly rare finds from its 17th century cargo. The objects, now known collectively as the Palmwreck Finds, offer a unique look at a very wealthy life towards the end of the Dutch Golden Age. The most spectacular and unexpected find was an intact silk dress discovered in a wooden chest, which had been kept in almost perfect condition for hundreds of years by the layers of sand and silt on the sea floor.

Antique dress found in shipwreck

Little did they know that this same dress would go on to spark global debate about claiming ownership over shared cultural heritage, and the responsibilities that come with that ownership concerning its preservation. A rare find like this has incredible value for us all in telling us more about our collective history but needs proper care and conservation to do so.

In October 2022, after almost a decade of deliberation and research on the mainland, HIZKIA Amsterdam helped bring the dress ‘home’ to Kaap Skil Museum to join the other Palmwood Wreck Finds. The Amsterdam Packing Shop built the fragile garment its own box for the journey, which was further fortified by a special construction in the truck to absorb any vibrations during transport, both on the road and while crossing the very sea where it lay undiscovered for so many years.

Now laid to rest in a custom-built, oxygen-free, and fully climatized case in Museum Kaap Skil, the dress is on permanent display. It has captured the imaginations of many and continues to attract visitors from all over the world, including the King and Queen of the Netherlands!

Want the whole story? You can check out the critically acclaimed documentary and podcast series (in Dutch) here.