Mon, 14 Aug 2000

Official suggests spice museum for Jakarta

JAKARTA (JP): The City Museum and Restoration Agency has proposed the establishment of Indonesia's first ever spice museum in an unused building within the Maritime Museum compound on Jl. Pasar Ikan I in North Jakarta.

Agency chairman Robert P. Silalahi said the museum would give added value to the existing Maritime Museum, locally known as Museum Bahari, which is some 400 meters away from the Sunda Kelapa seaport.

"We're planning to display all kinds of spices that were much sought after by European seamen, including posting information on their locations as travel destinations, in a currently idle building on the museum compound," he told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview.

"The planned museum will provide in-depth historical explanations about the lucrative spice business in Batavia (old name for Jakarta) in the past, which eventually led to colonization," he added.

Robert said the idea was initially proposed to the visiting City Council Commission E for social welfare at the Jakarta Historical Museum on Monday.

"We'll have another meeting to further discuss the plan," he said.

The planned spice museum will occupy a 3,000-square-meter building in block C, which is currently under renovation.

According to official data, the Maritime Museum stands on a 10,000-square-meter plot, which comprises three buildings.

The first building, built in 1652 and still in good condition, was the Westzijdsch Pakhuizen (warehouse at the western part of Ciliwung River).

The third building is a three-story lookout tower called Uitkijk or Menara Syahbandar, built in 1839. Its main purpose was to afford a view of the ships in the Sunda Kelapa seaport.

These buildings were used as warehouses during the occupation of Dutch and Japanese forces.

In 1977, the compound was transferred to the city administration and was given its current name. There are 60 original traditional boats in its collection.

The Maritime Museum is among seven museums belonging to the city administration.

Head of the Maritime Museum, Dhermawan Ilyas, said at least 600 people visit the museum every month.

"The number of visitors has dropped significantly, compared to the 4,000 who would visit monthly before the May 1998 riots," he said.

He said block C in the museum compound was under renovation for the planned spice museum.

"Hopefully, construction of the three-story building will be completed in September.

"We expect to open the spice museum next year," Dhermawan said. (lup)