Cooperation between Jakarta and Leiden

Since 2004 the National Museum of Indonesia (MNI) in Jakarta and the National Museum of Ethnology (RMV) in Leiden have organized joint projects to promote their shared cultural heritage created by their shared history. This is the third project. Earlier projects included the 2005 exhibition ‘Indonesia: discovery of the past’ (‘Warisan budaya bersama’) and the 2009 exhibition ‘Treasures of Sumatra’ (Sumatra tercinta: the beloved island), both of which incorporated scholarly catalogues.

Historical links

The reason for this cooperation lies in the history of our collections. Many of the objects in the two museums were collected within a colonial context. The Museum Nasional inherited the museum collection of the Koninklijk Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, which was established in Batavia (now Jakarta) in 1778.

The most important Indonesia collections in the Museum Volkenkunde were collected in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the same colonial context. They were sent to the Netherlands by the colonial government, acquired through colonial expeditions or exhibitions, received as gifts, collected as souvenirs, or, in some rare cases, taken home as war bounty.

Due to this common history the collections are intimately related, even to the extent that objects have previously been deliberately divided between the two museums.

Shared heritage

As a result, large parts of our (Indonesia) collections complement each other. This also applies to the materials relating to the Singhasari period (1222-1292). For instance, the MNI has the beautiful Buddhist statues from the Jago temple, while the RMV has the equally beautiful Hindu statues from the Singosari temple. The MNI has the image of Prajnaparamita, also from Singosari. The RMV, on the other hand, has a contemporary bronze copy of the Jago images. The MNI has most of the historical documents from the Singhasari period itself, in the form of inscriptions, while the RMV has the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century documentation of the (re)discovery and restoration of the Singosari monuments and sculptures.

Virtual reunion

On this website we focus on the site of present-day Singosari, formerly the capital city during the Singhasari period. We discuss the rediscovery of the site, the temple remains and the inscriptions and statues found there, and provide religious and historical background information.

During the colonial period related objects, such as those from Singosari, became separated from each other. Some are still in Singosari, others were moved to Jakarta and Leiden (and two to Bangkok). We acknowledge this history and try to bridge the distances that were created in the colonial past by reuniting them in the virtual surroundings of this website.

Together they form the material culture of an important but not very well-known period in Indonesia’s past, a period that warrants more attention. The launch of this project gives our two museums a unique opportunity to strengthen our cooperation and to exchange knowledge and expertise.

A virtual environment is flexible and makes changes and additions possible. We hope that this project can be expanded in the future to include more objects, information and scholarly articles.