An Anthropological Perspective on Indonesian Museum Collections and How to Increase Their Civic Value

Results of Long Term Ethnographic Observations of Indonesian Museum Culture Kementerian Agama Republic Agama Badang Litbang Dan Diklat October 4, 2011

Jonathan Zilberg, Ph.D
Research Associate Sekola Pasjarasan Universitas Islam Nasional Syarif Hidayatulha

Introduction: What is Museum Ethnography and Why Does it Matter to Your Museum?
• This workshop provides a critical anthropological perspective on some Indonesian museums, their collections, management, programs and projects. After briefly revisiting some of the success stories and the problems, we will focus on the unusually successful transformation of the Textile Museum in Tanah Abang, Jakarta. Through visual illustrations, we will consider that success, what remains to be done there, and in that way observe what kind of observations anthropologists make on museums, their activities and collections and especially their role in society. We will reflect upon this unusual success story as a model case for how to improve your own museum and especially how to enhance its connection to society.

• In my initial plan for today as a full day workshop I had decided to consider six different Indonesian museum contexts as given in the next slide. However, as this is going to be a half day workshop I will only briefly discuss them to give you a sense of the range of my ethnographic research on these and other museums and what I see as the problems and potential solutions. For instance, I illustrated and discussed many of today’s issues as they concern active learning and The Museum Istiqlal in last years workshop here. You can revisit that later if you like on-line at scribd at Today we will consider a few cases by way of introduction but mainly focus on the success story of the Textile Museum, one recent exhibition there being illustrative of that success.

• • •

Six Examples of Solutions to the Problems
The Textile Museum, Jakarta: Leadership and the Whole Museum Team, Effective Programs and Exhibitions The National Museum, Jakarta: Comparing Collections – The Treasure Room versus the Courtyard, the New Wing versus the Old Wing

The National Museum, Jakarta: High School Docent Programs The Indonesian History Society: The Growing Role of Civil Society The Museum Istiqlal: An Iconic and Symptomatic Challenge – The Success of Suhuf and Studia Islamica – The Need for Research

The Aceh Provincial Museum and Rumoh Atjeh: Comparing Collections

Rumoh Atjeh, the Aceh Provincial Museum and the Tsunami Museum: Comparing Museums and Collections and using Social Media
• One of the most effective ways to link your museum to the public for educational purposes, for announcing events and for promoting your collections and research on it is to use social media. For the archival record and for open access, I continually create open access facebook folders of museum exhibits and events etc. These potentially allow for content rich discussion and analysis. For instance let us briefly go to Aceh before returning to Jakarta to focus on the Textile Museum:

• •

The Textile Museum in Tanah Abang
• Over the years I have followed this particular museum with special interest for many reasons, the importance of enduring textile traditions to Indonesian society and the growing recognition of that, the architectural interest of the building and above all its potential transformation now actualized. It is an exceptional building of exceptional contemporary relevance. Take for instance, these photos of the opening event for an exhibition of songket textiles in 2007. 0348072&type=1 And take for instance, the most recent exhibition, which is still there. 0093.770348072

• •

The Textile Museum, Jakarta: Leadership: The Primary Condition Everything depends on the quality, that is the skills, the professional commitment to knowledge sector enhancement and above all the management style and motivation of the Director

The Textile Museum, Jakarta: Doing it Right: The Primary Test

This is Not The Solution

This is Not The Solution

This is The Solution: Beautiful and Informative Displays

This is The Solution: Happy Motivated Employees

And This is The Ultimate Solution: Continuous Effective Activities

The Museum Istiqlal: An Iconic and Symptomatic Challenge

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Conclusion of Part One
• Anthropological observations of museums and their collections can provide you with insights into how to more effectively use your collections and connect your museums to the public. • Nothing I have to say here today is new to those working in or familiar with Indonesian museums! • The basic problem as everyone knows is that by and large Indonesians are simply not interested in their museums and do not visit them – except for the obligatory school tours. • To change that – that is the ultimate challenge.

Problems and Solutions from an Applied Anthropological Perspective
From an anthropological perspective, there are may problems limiting the more effective use of Indonesian museums and their collections. Some of the biggest problems - and thus opportunities - are as follows: 1. They are barely used for research and teaching 2. They are not widely respected as national patrimony 3. They are often poorly maintained 4. There is a lack of information about the collections within the museums themselves and within society at large 5. People are simply not interested – they go to the mall instead

Part Two
Reflecting for Action

The Workshop Component

Now that I have taken you on a tour of some museums from an anthropological perspective with a focus on the recent show of antique batiks from Cirebon at the Textile Museum in Tanah Abang, please reflect upon how the following observations apply to your own museum, to its facilities, programs and collections. In your mind and notes identify specific problems facing your museum and formulate strategies and activities for overcoming these four problems. We will now work on those issues and solutions in this second half of this workshop.

In the following slides, I ask a series of questions. • Please write down and discuss with your partners your combined thoughts and answers as completely as you can. • They will provide the basis for the applied workshop component which is for you to draft proposals relevant to your collections and museum so as to in time match the success of the Textile Museum in Jakarta and Rumoh Atjeh in Banda Aceh.

How Much Do You Know About Your Museum Collection? What are the strengths of your collection? How was the collection made and when? What do the displays look like? Are they maintained and changed and if so how?

More Questions
What are your exhibition and education programs? How do you use your collections in such programs? What publications exist on your collections? Do you ever write about the collection? Why not? What educational materials do you have related to your collection?

More Questions
• Do you evaluate your collections? Why not? • Do you evaluate how they are used? Why not? • What ideas can you apply to your collection from the positive examples of local solutions that I will provide in this workshop? • What are the chances of you doing so? • What are the obstacles that will prevent you from doing so? • How can you overcome those obstacles?

Be Brutally Honest
What is the condition of your public bathrooms? Does your roof leak? What are your visitor numbers excluding organized school groups? How good are those student tours? What do they get out of them in terms of enhancing their education and creating a future community of interested learners who will return to your museum? How well do you use the media and local government to promote your museum? Do you use social media? Come up with more evaluative questions like this based on problems at your museum?

• Pedagogy and Museum Reform • The Future Generations • Three Ideas

Anthropological Solutions
Integrate the study of museum collections into the school and university curriculum. Build public and government awareness Build interest and commitment Build and Maintain Connectivity Make museums effective places of learning and reflection Make the museum a place to appreciate through the collections the importance of the state philosophy of Pancasila and thus the importance of the museum as a core institution for promoting the nation’s plural culture and history

Long term social engineering
Though your collections you could attempt to try to change the lack of a museum culture in Indonesia in four fundamental ways: 1. 2. 3. 4. To stimulate a love of life-long learning about culture and history Promote a critical reading culture Advance a passion for writing and analysis Engage museums in public policy It can only be done through leading by example

Opportunities for National Pedagogical and Museum Reform • Systematically link museums with schools and universities through working with educators to build your collections and programs into the curriculum and building sustainable partnerships • Experiment with active learning methods • Insist on promoting a reading, writing and presenting culture in which the collections provide the materials and the museum context the opportunity for practicing presentation and publication

Applied Anthropological Critique
Do research yourself Write academic papers Publish them Attend conferences Promote your museum collections and the work being done at your museum Collaboratively produce creative educational materials Document your initiatives Promote Academic Excellence Through Your Museum Critically evaluate current practices in written reports Enhance future performance through bi-annual personal performance reviews Seek Continuing Education and Professional Development

Museum Reform:
Results of Ethnographic Observations of Indonesian Museum Culture Suggestions – Read Empowerment of Museums: Problems and Solutions (1999) and Reflect on How Far or Not Indonesian Museums Have Come Since Then

The Final Solutions • Leadership is everything. • Appoint Qualified and Deeply Committed Directors – not Government Bureaucrats • Seek Government Reform on Budget Transparency and Greater Institutional Budgetary Independence • Insist on Life-Long Learning and Training for Curators • Empower All Museum Staff and Engage Their Networks

The Future Generations
• Is there any hope? Always. • Are museums mere colonial hangovers? Yes. • What do the malls and mall culture offer for your collections and future educational programs and exhibitions? A great deal. • How can an anthropological perspective help? You tell me!

Three Closing Ideas
• Consider the results of The Starbucks “Ayo – Kita ke Museum” campaign. Were there any? • Consider The Museum “Ayo – Kita ke Mall” option. It works! • Consider a Government “Ayo – Integrasi Museums dan Educasi” campaign and program

Attend Conferences Publish Network Use Social Media 33073.360436.770348072&saved

Thank You

Sampai Bertemu di Museum

Reading List I
Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display (1991) Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine, eds. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press Exhibition Experiments (2007) McDonald, Sharon and Paul Basu, eds. London: Blackwell Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts (2004), Bettina Messias Carbonell ,ed. London: Blackwell New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction (2008). Janet Marstine, ed. London: Blackwell The Presented Past: Heritage, museums and education (1994) Peter G. Stone and Brian L. Molyneaux. London: Routledge

Reading List 2
Aceh: Kembali ke Masa Depan (2005) A. D. Pirous et. al. Jakarta: IKJ Press. Dari Tulis ke Lukis: Pameran Kaligrafi Islam (2010). Ali Akbar, ed. Jakarta: Lajnah Pentashihan Mushaf Al-Qur’an Badan dan Diklat Kementerian Agama Republic Indonesia. Empowerment of Museums: Problems and Solutions (1999), Suwati Kartiwa, Barbara Johnson and Toto Tazir, eds. Jakarta: State Ministry of Tourism and Art. Golden Letters: Writing Traditions in Indonesia/ Surat Emas: Budaya Tulis di Indonesia (1991), eds Annabel Teh Gallop and Bernard Arps, London-Jakarta: The British Library-Yayasan Lontar. “Iluminasi dalam Naska Cirebon” (2010), Achmad Opan Safari, Suhuf vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 309-325. “The Shaving of the Prophet’s Hair (Nabi Aparas): The Philology of Lombok Texts”, Studia Islamika (2010) vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 441-486. “An Anthropological Account of a Visit to the Museum Istiqlal”, (2010), Jonathan Zilberg, Suhuf vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 251-277.

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