US told to make former office of RI prime minister into museum
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Historian Asvi Warman Adam says that if the US embassy wants to relocate a historic Indonesian building on its compound, it should turn it into a museum for the public.
“With the relocation, the building will definitely lose its value. But that can be compensated for if the building is made into a museum – not just something that is visible from the outside,” Asvi told the Jakarta Post on Sunday.
The building in question is the office of Indonesia’s first prime minister, Sutan Syahrir, which currently resides behind the armed guards and high walls of the embassy.
People were unaware of the historic importance of the building, which was used during the political unrest that engulfed the nation in the immediate period after independence period, he said.
“People would be able to understand more about the function of the building back then,” if Sutan Syahrir’s office was converted into a museum, he added.
Asvi, a prominent hisotrian from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said that US officials should find ways to make it easier for people who want to visit the historic building without disturbing the work of the embassy.
The US embassy previously announced plans to relocate the building to build itself a new 10-story office building inside its compound on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan in Central Jakarta.
The US Ambassador to Indonesia, Scot A. Marciel, said that the embassy wanted to relocate and restore the former prime minister’s office within the embassy’s compound.
The building would be visible to passersby from the street after the relocation, Marciel said.
Although the US had not decided on how it would use Sutan Syahrir‘s former office, Marciel said that the building would not be used as office space by the mission.
Embassy officials declined to elaborate on how the relocation would be done, saying that all processes would use internationally recognized preservation techniques under the guidance of a local preservationist.
Sutan Syahrir served as the nation’s prime minister from November 1945 and July 1947 and used the building as his office during the Netherlands-Indies Civil Administration (NICA) period.
Many important events in the nation’s history took place in the building, which was then known as the Perwakilan Tinggi Republik Indonesia (Office of the High Representative of the Republic of Indonesia).
An important convention was signed between the nation’s colonial occupiers, the Netherlands, and representatives of the Republic of Indonesia at the office, just before the Linggarjati Agreement was signed, giving the republic sovereignty over Java, Sumatra and Madura.
The US has used the building as its embassy since 1949.
Heru Purnomo, a civil engineer from the University of Indonesia, said that the US plan to relocate the building was difficult but, not impossible.
“It would be easier if we were moving a building made of wood, but it will be extremely difficult for a building made of bricks or concrete,” he said.
Heru said that to relocate the building it would have to be made lighter by uninstalling things such as its roof and pillars. Concrete would then be placed underneath the building to move it.
“Usually there will be cracks during the relocation process, but they can be covered up. What is hard is will be finding the exact tiles used in that old building,” he said, adding that relocating it was an ideal choice to preserve the historic building.
“The relocation and restoration will cost a lot of money, require great effort and take a long time, too.” Heru said.
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