National Museum of Indonesia is located near Monas or National Monument. It holds more than 141.000 objects consisted of prehistoric collection, archaeology, numismatic and heraldic, ceramic, ethnography, history, and geography. The collections represent the vast diversity of Indonesian people and the richness of its culture.
National Museum is also well-known as The Elephant Museum (Museum Gajah). It is due to the bronze elephant statue standing in front of the museum. It was a gift from King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) of Thailand, who visited the museum in 1871.
4 tips when visiting
1. You can ask for a tour guide service.
A museum with stories feels more exciting and interesting. Hence you might want to consider using the tour guide service. You’ll dig hidden information which may stay unravel otherwise. The guide can also direct you to which part of the museum is worth more of your time.
There’s a schedule for the tour service in foreign languages, such as: English, French, Korean, and Japanese. For a tour outside the schedule time, please contact the Indonesian Heritage Society library by Ph. (021) 5725870 or e-mail:[email protected]
In addition, a tour in other languages beyond the 4 ones mentioned above is also provided based on a request.
Here are the tour schedules:
1. English tour
At 10:30 WIB every Tuesday
At 10:30 WIB and at 13:30 WIB every Thursday
The second Saturday and the last Saturday of each month.
2. French tour
At 9:30 WIB every third Wednesday of each month
3. Korean tour
At 9:30 WIB every the first Tuesday and the third day of each month.
4. Japanese tour
At 9:30 WIB Tuesday and the first Saturday of each month.
For a service in Indonesian, you can go straight to the information counter in the entrance lobby of the Old Building. No price tag for the service, it’s up to you how much do you want to give.
2. Bring some food and drink.
You can’t eat and drink inside the Museum, but you can keep it in your bag and store it in the deposit counter at the entrance lobby.
The time spent for exploring the whole place probably around 2-3 hours. If you start in the morning, let’s say 8.30, then you’ll be finished around lunchtime.
There’s no place to eat nearby, unless you want to eat in the museum’s cafe. The nearest venue to eat would be the food court inside Kawasan Monas near the Horse Chariot gate or near Inscription Museum, which is quite a long walk and if you don’t mind for eating at a humble place.
3. You need a permission to use a tripod.
If you are more that just a casual visitor, and you want to take a photograph using a tripod, you need to ask for a permission from the PR division/ humas division.
The permission should be in writing and sent to Museum Nasional email address.
On Saturday and Sunday the division is closed, and on Monday and National holidays the museum is closed.
4. Push and slide closed doors.
Many doors are kept closed for the air conditioning. So push or slide them or you might miss something.
What’s in the museum
The museum is divided into two buildings. The first one is called the ‘Gedung Lama’ or the ‘Old Building’ and the second one is the ‘Gedung Arca’ or ‘Statue Building’. A glass lobby connects both buildings. Through it you enter the second building.
In the future there might be a new structure, as shown on the museum’s booklet.
Here is the map of the museum. You can find this map at the entrance lobby, complete with the English Translation.
Inaguide divides the map into 3 sections with 2 red lines to make it easier to understand.
This is the entrance lobby in the Gedung Lama. Here you can deposit your bag and belongings, but bring your valuables with you.
If you wish you may go to the second building by taking the right path and go through the glass lobby or you may choose to walk forward through the opened door and enter a room full with statues from ancient time.
Based on the labels some of them were originated from a candi. A candi is a Hindu or Budhist temple made of stones.
Right at the exit door facing a garden, stands the tallest statue in Museum Nasional. It portrays Adityawarma, a royal from Majapahit, a Malay descendant who then became a king in Sumatera.
Below is the garden called the prehistoric garden. On this area lie many objects representing the Megalithic period. Megalithic is a transition period from the planting age (Neolithic) to the beginning of iron age (Paleometalic).
Megalithic derives from two words, mega which means big and lithos which means stone, thus the word Megalithic has a meaning structure made of big stones.
The tradition of building Megalithic structures came from the believe of the existence of a relationship between the dead (ancestor spirit) and the livings. Prehistoric society believed, that their ancestor spirits will always be with them, protect and provide prosperity to the people they left. For that reason, to honor the dead, they build structures of big stones that had the purpose as the container and the symbol of the dead ones.
Here’s one of the legacy:
This is called Sarkofagus. It looks like a bath tub, but this is actually a coffin. Sarkofagus is a place to put a dead body, made of stone, consisted of the container and the cover. Both are in the same shape and size.
The coffin is only for a person from the upper social class, an elder or someone respected by the society.
The archeology research found that in graveyard sites, in many places that there were Sarkofagus with a cover and without one. The one with cover, often had a small statue in human gesture (kedok). Kedok is believed to have a spiritual value, which is to repel a jinx.
That’s a little bit story of Sarkofagus.
After you walk across the garden you may choose to keep moving forward or walk to the left or right wing. Either way you’ll find different rooms with many interesting objects to observe.
1. Barong and Rangda
This is Barong and Rangda, a unique set of dance costumes from Bali made of wood, textiles, and fur.
Literally, the word ‘Rangda’ means widow and is regarded as a symbol of evil. Rangda is portrayed as a woman with long hair, wide eyes, long nails, protruding tongue, and long breasts. While Barong is considered the king of the spirits of kindness shown as a figure resembling a lion with long fangs and hairy.
Barong and Rangda described as having an equal power. Both are also immortal, fighting in an endless battle. The story of this eternal duel is then raised in Barong dance art.
Balinese Hindu community recognize the concept of Rwa Bhineda, two opposite forces coexist in harmony. The concept of balance is embodied in the mythology of the relationship between Barong and Rangda. Barong and Rangda eternal struggle symbolizes good and evil that always exists in a human life.
2. Pasren, the bedroom of Dewi Sri – the Goddess of Rice
As you can see this is a bed with stuffs around. But this isn’t an ordinary bed. In the past, there was always a room in a traditional houses of royal family which was especially made for worshipping Dewi Sri, The Goddess of Rice.
The room was furnished with a set of bed and other offering stuffs. It’s called Pasren or Petanen, which means the place of Dewi Sri and the storage of the agricultural products.
Other stuffs placed before bed are a couple of the Javanese bride and groom ‘Loro Bonyo’, one set of jar, one set of rice paddy and crops containers and a ‘Robyong’ lamp which always flames up. Most of the Javanese agrarian believed and worshiped Dewi Sri as the Blessing Goddess. They store their crops one night in Pasren before it’s taken to the ceremony the next day.
In a wedding the bride and groom meeting ceremony was held before the Pasren to have Dewi Sri the goddess, bless their life and turn their life into the ones Dewi Ratih and Dewa Krmajaya the god of love.
3. Indonesia traditional houses
In this room you’ll see various unique designs of house models from many regions of Indonesia. Traditional society build their houses from basic materials such as wood, bamboo, rattan, grass, and reed.
Many tribes living in jungle which was also the home of many wild animals. Thus, they build stilts houses to protect them from danger. The people lived in coastal area also build the same kind of houses to keep them safe when flood were coming.
These 3 examples are only a small sample of the collections showcased in the Gedung Lama.
You enter the Gedung Arca from the first one through the glass lobby. Despite the name you won’t see statues as much as the first one.
At the end of the hallway, you’ll see a set of Gamelan. It’s a traditional music instruments consists of mostly bronze percussion. If you’re lucky, maybe there’s some people playing and you can hear the tune of Indonesian traditional music.
Go to the left and you’ll enter a big hall with 4 floors. Each floor has its own of theme:
- Floor 1 – Human & environment
- Floor 2 – Science and technology
- Floor 3 – Social organization
- Gold and ceramic
At the first floor you’ll see some prehistoric background of Indonesian people. You’ll see also some bones and skull revealing the story of the past time.
You can go to the next floor by using an escalators and enter a room or a hall.
This is ‘Setengga’, a long rifle made of brass and silver. It was used by the European in Paderi War in Indonesia. The Minang people called it – Badiek Si Tingga derived from the Malay language, Istingar, or in Portuguese, Epingarda meaning a long weapon.
Here are some examples of the traditional clothing from different regions, including the Koteka a penis sheath traditionally worn by native male inhabitants of some (mainly highland) ethnic groups in New Guinea to cover their genitals (top left).The fourth floor is the most safeguarded place amongst other. Because here lies artefacts made of gold and have a very high historic value. You’re not allowed to take any photo without permission from the PR division. The concern is that people may create imitation from the images taken. Furthermore there had been incident in the past, where 4 artefacts were stolen and never been found.
To go to this floor you’ll need to take a lift.
Especially at this place you might want to have a tour guide. Because there’s not much written information next to the objects.
Other information you might need.
The ticket price
This price information may change in the future, but currently the museum applies two ticket pricing:
- Foreign tourists: Rp. 10,000.
- Domestic tourist: Rp. 5,000.
For more detail information on the ticket price visit the official website of national museum.
The existence of the Museum Nasional began with the establishment of Bataviaasch Genootschap voor Kunsten en Wetenschappen, an institution founded by the Dutch Government on 24 April 1778, during the age of Enlightenment, an intellectual phenomena developed in the mid 18th century in Europe. At the time, people questioned traditional beliefs, and societies were founded to discuss these matters scientifically, among others De Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (Dutsch Scientific Society), founded in Haarlem, the Netherlands, in 1752
In the beginning, this society planned to open a branch in Batavia (now Jakarta), which was well received there by people with the same scientific orientation. However, a few Dutch believed that an independent institution in Batavia was a better idea. On 24 April 1778, a private institution was founded, called Bataaviasch Genootschap van Kusten en Wetenschappen (BG). Their mottor was ‘Ten Nutte van het Algemeen’, meaning ‘For the benefit of all’. The aim of the institution was to enhance research in the field of art and sciences, specially biology, physics, archaeology, literature, ethnology and history; and to publish scientific results.
One of the founders of this institution, J.C.M Radermacher, donated a house in Jalan Kalibesar, a trade district in downtown Batavia. He also donated his collection of artefacts and books, which became the initial collection of the museum and library.
During the British administration in Java (1811-1816), Lieutenant Governor Sir Stamford Raffles became the director of the institution. Due to the growth of the collections, the house in Kalibesar could not accommodate all the objects anymore. Therefore, he ordered the building of a new establishment for a museum and meeting hall for the Literary Society (previously called ‘Societeit de Harmonie), located on Jalan Majapahit number 3. Presently, this location is part of the Sekretariat Negara (Governmental Secretaria), near the Presidential Palace.
The collection of BG steadily grew, and after a while the museum in Jalan Majapahit became too small. In 1862, the Dutch Government decided to build a new museum at its present location, Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat no. 12 (formerly called Koningsplein West). Within the area as built also Rechsthogeschool or ‘Judicial High School’ (once used by the Kenpetai during the Japanese occupation, and now the Departemen Pertahanan dan Keamanan, Department of Defence and Security). The museum was officially opened to the public in 1868.
The museum is well known among Indonesian society, especially citizens of Jakarta, who call the museum ‘Gedung Gajah’ or ‘Elephant Buidling’, because the bronze elephant statue in front of the museum, a gift from King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) of Thailand, who visited the museum in 1871. Sometimes it is also refered to as ‘Gedung Arca’ or ‘Statue Building’, because the museum displays many statues from different periods.
In 1923, this institution received the title ‘koninklijk’ meaning ‘royal’, because of its meritorious service in the field of science and other governmental projects. The institution then was renamed as ‘Koninklijk Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kusnten en Wetenscahppen. After Indonesian indepedence (on 26 January 1950), the name was changed into Lembaga Kebudayaan Indonesia (Indonesian Culture Institute). The change was in line with the conditions at the time, as reflected in the new motto: ‘Advancing the science of culture to benefit the development of science in Indonesia archipelago and surrounding nations.’
Considering the importance of this museum for the Indonesian people, on 17 September, 1962, the Lembaga Kebudayaan Indonesia handed the management over to the Indonesian Government, and the institution became the Museum Pusat (Central Museum). Finally, based on the Decree of the Minister of Education and Culture no. 092/O/1979, dated 28 May 1979, the Museum Pusat became Museum Nasional (National Museum).
This time Museum Nasional has about 141,000 objects consisted of prehistoric collection, archaeology, numismatic and heraldic, ceramic, ethnography, history and geography. Museum of Nasional was built of about 26,500 M2. Old Building (Elephant Building) is used for collection exhibition room and storage New Wing (Arche Building) which was officially opened on 20 June 2007 by DR. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (President RI), besides used for exhibition room (1st to th floor), is also used for the office, conference room, laboratory, library and others.