Jakarta to Revive Maritime Museum

Indonesia, Jakarta, culture, museums

Museum Bahari (Maritime Museum) after the fire destruction (Photo: The Jakarta Globe)

Jakarta Maritime Museum located in former Dutch East India Company warehouses, dating back from the 17th century, was severely damaged by a fire last year. However, the government will fully rebuilt the facility for its grand reopening in 2020. 

A long time, warehouses served to store spices and coffee for the former Dutch East India Company in Sunda Kelapa, the historical port of Batavia. The warehouses were built beside the mouth of Ciliwung River and divided into an east and west bank area with four buildings making the entire complex. Three of them are today used for Jakarta Maritime Museum offering a vision of Indonesia maritime history. Unfortunately, a major blaze engulfed large parts of the structure in January 2018, destroying half of the collection, including 300-year old items.  on Jan. 16, 2018, destroyed approximately half of the collection.

The number of visitors consequently declined. From 35,640 visitors in 2017, the museum accounted only 29,500 visitors in 2018, a decline of over 17% over the previous year. 2019 was better as temporary exhibitions were organised in the museum’s premises but the number should still be inferior to 2017.

As the fire had destroyed many objects, such as traditional boats and warehouse miniatures, navigation equipment miniatures, and an installation depicting wars on the Java Sea and Sunda Strait, the priority has been since to rebuild the collection as the collection now lacks its logic. To return the museum to its original format, the Maritime Museum Committee planned first to create miniatures of all the destroyed artifacts and install them in the new building in 2020.

According to an interview with the Jakarta Post, Maritime Museum’s head of technical management, Husnison Nizar, explained that a new concept is now in the making by re-creating some of the missed artifacts or by putting new objects. The limited budget remains an issue to fulfill the ambitious reconstruction plans of the museum. This year, the Maritime Museum received only US$3.50 million in dotation. “We will conduct an internal study on how we should manage the collection. If we decide to create a new storyline, then we have to create a new collection,” explained Husnison Nizar to the newspaper.

“We would also like to cooperate with museum communities to introduce a new experience in the Maritime Museum,” Husnison said.

Jakarta Tourism and Culture Agency secretary Asiantoro confirmed that the restoration and improvement of the Maritime Museum would be one of the priorities in Jakarta’s 2020 budget for the development of the tourism sector. To the Jakarta Post, the Secretary stressed that the Maritime Museum certainly will be a priority for 2020.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian History Community (KHI), a non-government organization promoting and preserving museums in Indonesia, has also lamented the loss of pivotal artifacts in the fire.

Asep Kambali, a founder of KHI, supported the museum to replicate the collection immediately and recommended that it preserve the razed part of the museum as a historical reminder that a major incident once happened there.

Asep also said that the museum’s management should introduce new programs to keep visitors entertained with the storyline and that the community was ready to support the management in reviving and promoting the museum.

“After the restoration is completed, we would like to promote the Maritime Museum with several events, such as the Silent Tour program, in which visitors receive guidance from the community’s tour guide via headphones, and an Indonesian history festival to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Independence Day from August to September 2020,” Asep said to the Jakarta Post.

(Source: Jakarta Post)