Sunday, 8 March 2009

Textile Museum, the Forgotten Jewel of Tanah Abang

Museum Tekstil, Permata Tanah Abang yang Kurang Ditengok, Textile Museum, the Forgotten Jewel of Tanah Abang.

This is a recycle version of an article sent to JP as a reaction after reading a readers' letter. The article did not get a room in that printed newspaper, and was buried inside my computer.

As wikimu is raising up the travel to old buildings I worked on this one, faster as it is just like translating and adding several comments.

This is the unedited version of the English script (the data is old dated but I think the fact is not really changing, yet in the article for wikimu I did make some changes or erasing some statements):

A recent letter from the Jakarta Post’s reader Mr. Jonathan Zilberg (the Jakarta Post, September 21, 2007) is commenting on the article published here earlier under the title “Museum Struggles for Popularity” (the Jakarta Post, September 17, 2007). The letter showed the reader’s in-depth knowledge of the Textile Museum and the problems that encountered most museums in Indonesia.
One of his statements should be read by more people dealing with the city officials or the museum’s planning and development here, “A new building is the last thing that is needed”. It is really true, as this old building gives another additional value to the museum itself.

Searching through the Indonesian Wikipedia (see we can trace the museum long history. It was built as a private house of a Frenchman in the 19th C, and it has a long history before it became the Textile Museum in 1976. The house was used as the house of a Turkish Consul, Abdul Azis Almussawi Al Katiri, before bought by Dr. Karel Christian Cruq in 1942. It was then turned as headquarter for the Civil Defense Force (Barisan Keamanan Rakyat –BKR), before it turned back into civilian house by Lie Sion Pin. In 1952 this beautiful house was bought by the Social Department and was transferred to the Provincial Government of DKI Jakarta on October 25, 1975. Madame Tien Soeharto, the first lady at that time, inaugurated the building as the Textile Museum on June 28, 1976. The building is really worth historical value!

Looking through its history, the building represents a century of Tanah Abang history. If we can dig a deeper cultural history of how this district became the first melting pot of international textiles trades in Jakarta (not to say in Indonesia) perhaps it can show the significant value to promote the building as a cultural object of tourism.

Yet, other facts presented in the article “Museum Struggles for Popularity” are also worth to take into our notice. The picture presented the crowded hawkers that put the beauty of the museum into the unseen back ground of the place is a real thing. As we drive our private car we can easily missed this place. And the poor public transportation is nonetheless discouraging local people to come to this museum.
For most residents of Jakarta, the Tanah Abang district is probably meant awful traffic jam. It is also the problem that should be faced by most museums in the Old Town Area. The public reluctant to come due to the traffic jam. Yet, these museums are also benefited by the continual need of the resident to come and visit the trade centers nearby.

If the government can make these museums (not only the textile museums) be the oasis in the middle of these historical and active business districts, it would really help boosting their popularity.

The National Monument as the landmark of Jakarta is probably the most popular historical building as tourism object in Jakarta. According to the Office of Culture and Museums of the Province of DKI Jakarta, in the year 2006 the National Monument was visited by 664,212 visitors, while the Textile Museum only got 19,072 visitors. The number of visitors is far from the number of visitors who visited the most popular museum in Indonesia, the National Museum, which according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic Indonesia had 170,437 visitors in 2005 (in the same year the Textile Museum got 15,014 visitors as cited from the Province of DKI Jakarta’s data). The low numbers of visitors are still even better than faced by the some other museums such as the Maritime Museum, the 1945 Struggle Museum and MH Thamrin Museum, or the Onrust Archeological Park which did not even passed 10,000 visitors in the year 2006.

Visitor’s comfort is one important thing that is overlooked by the Textile Museum’s administrator. While searching in the tourism object in the internet we could gain information that we can take picture without flash, in the reality we are not granted to take any pictures without flash inside the building. So, the only token would be from the exterior of the buildings in the Textile Museum. The special permit is off course available with prior hierarchial arrangement, but for most public visitors it might be also one disadvantage factor to revisit the place.

Another discomforting fact that was encountered by the writer when visited the Textile Museum is the fact that a woman’s handbag is also forbidden to enter the main exhibition building. Under the security reason that was really acceptable, except that our bags were not really guarded. Coming out of the main exhibition there was no person guarding the bags put in an open shelf. Giving a locker facility will at least give a more secure feeling leaving your bag outside.

As someone unfamiliar with curatorial work and minimum requirement of the treatment of old textile, one can not really judge the minimum varieties or visual comfort displayed in the museum. Yet, it might be true that Indonesian public with the lack of knowledge on their valuable textiles would not see any reason to come back after the first visit.

On the other hand, people who do have the interest toward traditional textiles would find this place intriguing. In the center courtyard behind the main building, one can study the trees that helped Indonesian ancestors produced such beautiful colored textiles.

In another building that facilitate interested people with the facility to study how to make traditional textile such as batik, we can always find the interactive transferring of knowledge that also help the continuation of the traditional textiles.

It is also important for the media to promote these probably hidden activities, to take people’s attention to visit the place. Here, the local and international visitors are all in deep concentration toward the process of producing the beautiful pieces of art in cloth. Some international visitors are already tied to the place for years. They can become our best representatives outside the country in promoting the beauty of Indonesian textiles.

To gain a good remark of the Textile Museum image, it should combine all the efforts. It should include the willingness of the government administration to prioritize the Textile Museum as its central part in any urban planning decision in the Tanah Abang district. It would really enhance the existence of the Textile Museum as the jewel of Tanah Abang. And off course, to be one of the irresistible treasure to visit in Indonesia.

1 comment:

jz said...

Dear Retty, many thanks for your stimulating article following up on my call and wish that Indonesians should take their museums more seriously. Good for you!

Should you like to see some photos of the museum at its best during a fine songket fashion show please see my photographs on the Global Museum website and various folders on my facebook page. I welcome your comments and am very grateful that you have become a citizen journalist!

Jonathan Zilberg