Wed, 19 Mar 2003

Museum visitors display penchant for `breasts'

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Fewer and fewer people are visiting the National Museum in Central Jakarta these days, despite the fact that it is a treasure house of interesting and valuable exhibits bearing witness to Indonesia's rich heritage, including many from the pre-historic era, some as old as 800,000 years.

Director Endang Sri Hardiati told The Jakarta Post that the number of foreign tourists had been continuously decreasing, especially following violent domestic incidents such as the recent Bali bombings and the riots in 1998.

According to museum figures, there were only 8,059 foreign visitors in 2002 compared to 29,169 in 1997.

Meanwhile, the museum seems not to be doing much in the way of staging special displays and promotions to attract local visitors. In fact, most visitors are kindergarten and elementary school students, who account for about 30 percent of the total annual number of visitors.

"We have booklets and leaflets available for visitors, also links that can be browsed through the internet at or," said Endang describing the efforts to attract visitors that had been made so far.

She said that the museum had not yet established any links with other museums in the city regarding a joint tour or other tourist promotions. Sometimes, however, the museum staged events in collaboration with outside partners, like artists or foreign embassies in the city.

For example, a painting exhibition had been held in association with the Italian Embassy and a graphic art exhibition had been staged in collaboration with the Croatian Embassy.

With only a limited annual budget provided by the Indonesian government -- the amount of which Endang mysteriously refused to reveal -- the museum faces severe constraints.

Meanwhile, the museum also finds it difficult to increase its revenue given the low admission charges. An adult visitor is only charged Rp 750 (US$0.083) while a student pays Rp 250. Some visitors are even loath to pay such paltry sums.

How to attract visitors and increase revenue are some of the many problems facing Jakarta's museums. Another problem is a lack of discipline on the part of visitors, something that can actually endanger exhibits.

There was a group of about 70 elementary students visiting the National Museum on the Friday morning of the Post's visit. Kids will be kids, of course, and are difficult to control in such a large place as the National Museum, as could clearly be seen that day.

The museum's History and Archaeology Department head, Intan Mardiana, told The Jakarta Post that those who acted like kids -- touching the statues and exhibits despite signs warning them not to do so -- were not only school students.

"Many adults do the same. Go and check our statues here. Most of the statues' breasts have been rubbed smooth," she lamented.

"When I visited a museum in Singapore, they were able to display all their exhibits without any rope cordon around them. A 'Do not touch' sign was more than enough. Even the kids didn't touch anything there," said museum director Endang Sri Hardiati.