Museum Nasional, or the National Museum of Indonesia, seeks to preserve important pieces of Indonesia’s cultural heritage. It also hopes to inform and educate the public about the significance of saving such pieces by putting up exhibits and distributing brochures and other printed materials, with the end goal of encouraging them to be involved. The National Museum of Indonesia is a historical, geographical, archeological, and ethnological museum that has existed for over 200 years. It is also sometimes called the Elephant Building because of the bronze statue of an elephant that stands in front of it. King Chulalongkorn of Siam gave the statue as a gift to Batavia, which is what Jakarta was called during colonial times.
The museum’s history goes back to April 24, 1778 when a group of Dutch individuals decided to put up an institution that would promote research and advanced studies in the fields of archaeology, physics, history, and ethnography. One of them donated a building for the institution, which was eventually called Royal Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences. He also gave important books and other objects of cultural significance in order to help the group start off on the right track.
Over time, the group’s collections began to grow. In the early 1800s, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles commissioned the construction of a new building to accommodate more collections. He gave it the name Literary Society. Finally, in 1862, the Dutch built a new structure that would have more than enough room for the collections and for an office for the museum staff. This new museum building was opened to the public in 1868. It was officially named Museum Nasional on May 28, 1979.
The National Museum of Indonesia holds some of the greatest collections among museums in Southeast Asia. It has over 60,000 artifacts, many of which are from prehistoric times. Of these, 5,000 were gathered from Indonesia and other parts of Asia. The museum is also known to have the biggest collection of Hindu and Buddhist artifacts from old Indonesia, which are found in its Stone Sculpture Collection in the Old Wing or Gedung Gajah. These include relics, sculptures, and ancient inscriptions discovered in Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and Bali.
Other collections found in the Old Wing of Museum Nasional include Ceramics, Archaeology and Ethnography, Historical Relics, Prehistory, Numismatics, Textile, and Bronze. The Ceramics collection includes ceramic artifacts gathered from China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, and Japan. The Archaeology and Ethnography collection, also called Treasure Rooms, contains pieces made of gold and other precious materials. A lot of these were unearthed from Java. The Historical collection is composed mostly of antique furniture from colonial times. Many pieces from this collection have been transferred to the Jakarta History Museum. The Prehistory collection includes artifacts dating back to the stone age.
You can visit Museum Nasional every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, every Friday from 8:30 am to 11:30 am, and every Saturday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm. It is located beside Lapangan Merdeka (Merdeka Square). You may also join a tour of the museum given by the Indonesia Heritage Society. The guided tours are conducted in English, Japanese, and German and have their corresponding schedules.