Fire at the Jakarta Maritime Museum
Dozens of invaluable items at the Jakarta Maritime Museum were destroyed in a fire. The building is no longer in appropriate condition for a maritime museum.
Only thick concrete walls and several wooden pillars remain on the two floors of the Jakarta Maritime Museums Building C, Section 2 and 3, after a fire last Tuesday. The buildings pyramid roof and wooden ceiling were destroyed in the fire. Were waiting for information from the police on the exact causes, but based on information from officers who witnessed the incident, the fire came from an electrical short circuit,¡± said the museums Chief of Technical Management Unit, Husnison Nizar, last Wednesday.
Parts of the top floor and attic of Building A, right next to Building C, were also destroyed in the fire. Meanwhile, no fewer than 60 items kept in Building C were ravaged, including historical objects in the Java Sea War Room. According to Husnison, the burned down historic items were not insured. Only the museums buildings have insurance.
Husnison says his team will collaborate with construction and cultural experts to replace the items destroyed. Well do more research. We can make replicas, but we dont know yet (what to do) about original items,¡± he said.
Susanto Zuhdi, a cultural sciences professor at the University of Indonesia, is convinced the collection in the Java Sea War Room is of high value. The collection of miniature warships, distance measuring instruments, binoculars, signal flags, shipcrews eating utensils and history books tell the story of World War IIs greatest sea battles.
The defeat of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM) at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Battle of the Java Sea on February 27-28, 1942, led to the collapse of Dutch rule in the Indies. It was a big event in world history and important in the study of defense,¡± said Susanto, a maritime history expert.
The Java Sea War Room became a permanent exhibition at the Maritime Museum since its inauguration less than one year ago. The exhibition was opened by British Ambassador Moazzam Malik and Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan on February 27, 2017. It was a 75-year commemoration of the event that killed over 2,000 allied sailors, including ABDACOM leader Rear Admiral Karel Doorman, who sank with his vessel Hr. Ms. De Ruyter after it was hit by a Japanese torpedo.
The four countries, through their respective embassies, donated historical items having to do with the Java Sea and Sunda Strait battle to the Maritime Museum. The exhibition also had the full support of the National Museums of the United Kingdom, the National Museum of Australia, the Netherlands’ National Maritime Museum, the United States Navy and Japan’s Tokyo Keizai University.
Although Susanto hopes that the Java Sea War Room can be restored and reconstructed, he recommends housing the exhibition in a new, more adequate home than the Maritime Museum. "As a country that claims to be a maritime nation, we should have a national maritime museum," said the author of the book Nationalism, Sea and History.
According to Susanto, the burned down Maritime Museum should be conserved only as a cultural heritage building. Even if it is kept as a museum, it would be best adapted to the building’s history as a spice warehouse owned by the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC).
The building, located on Jalan Pasar Ikan No. 1, Penjaringan, North Jakarta, was built in three stages from 1652 to 1771, making it the oldest museum in the Old Town area, older than the Fatahillah Museum- formerly the Stadhuis- built in 1707.
Similar suggestions were made by Chief of the Jakarta Restoration Assembly Team Bambang Eryudhawan, known as Yudha.
He believes that the former warehouse no longer needs to be a museum, but can be used as a spice gallery and can house a number of potential supporting activities. "Turn it into a creative hub, a space for creative economy for youths, from the upstream to downstream, from production to outlet," said Yudha.
According to Yudha, he had submitted a proposal to no longer keep the building as a museum during governor Fauzi Bowo’s tenure. The idea had also been the topic of the Restoration Assembly Team’s internal discussions whenever the museum requested recommendations for maintenance, repair or upgrading the supporting facilities. "Evidently the management was too busy addressing floods so that the museum affairs often had to come second," he said.
Adolf Heuken, author of 13 books about Jakarta, including the phenomenal Historical Sites of Jakarta, has also complained about the floods. Heuken says Kali Besar stopped flowing after it was blocked for residential development, causing the flow of water to be cut off, not to mention dampness on the lower part of the museum, accelerating damage to its over 200-year-old timber parts.
Heuken also regrets the destruction of a guard post in one corner of the museum. "I still saw it five years ago. Maybe the Jakarta government didn’t understand the structure’s significance," the author told Tempo last year in June.
According to Yudha, if the Jakarta administration decides to reconstruct the museum after the fire, they can also rehabilitate Bastion Zeeburg, which was ruined during the eviction of neighborhoods around Pasar Ikan (the fish market) in 2016. The outside walls attached to the Maritime Museum are the remnants of the Batavia City wall and are important to conserve.
The Maritime Museum, according to Yudha’s analysis, would not be able to accommodate the needs of a 21st century modern museum, even after reconstruction- especially if it receives 250,000 visitors annually. "We need a more spacious maritime or nautical museum that can accommodate exhibitions and an increasing number of visitors that is more diverse. We need something more magnificent," said Yudha.
Susanto is of a similar opinion. "I can’t see the place as convenient for a museum. Just look at the ceiling. It gets lower and lower because they keep raising the floor," he said.
Dody Hidayat, Fadiyah
Trails of History Razed
NO less than 60 collections of the Jakarta Maritime Museum were destroyed in a fire that occurred last Tuesday. The total collection of the museum inaugurated on July 7, 1977, amounted to about 850 items, including 107 miniature boats and 19 original traditional boats, such as the Bali outrigger and Pangadaran. There is also a diorama collection of nautical legends, ship navigation equipment, modern ship models and miniatures, as well as supporting equipment for shipping activities, such as lighthouses. There are regular exhibition space donations from four countries that describe the battle events in the Java Sea between the Allies and Japan on February 27-28, 1942, which was newly inaugurated on February 27, 2017.