The Jakarta Post
Faiz Wirawan's young family always wanted to go to the National Museum, every time they exercised at the National Monument nearby. Faiz said that he and his wife, Noni Novitasari, would look at the white building from the square and say that they had to go there someday.
But they never did ' at least not until Faiz received some information about a new activity called Akhir Pekan @Museum ([email protected]).
'When I found out about this from a BBM [BlackBerry Messenger] broadcast from my colleagues, we finally really did come here,' Faiz, who lives in Bekasi, West Java, said.
So Faiz and Noni took their 16-month-old daughter to a storytelling session in September and heard about history of bicycles while visiting the second floor of the National Museum's new wing.
[email protected] is funded by the National Museum and aims at increasing the number of visitors to the nation's flagship museum.
The director of the program, Yudhi Soerjoatmodjo, has been working with Teater Koma to design 15-minute storytelling sessions based on specific items in the museum's collection of almost a quarter million artifacts.
For example, another session in September was held on the fourth floor of the museum, which typically houses ceramic artifacts, and told about the sinking of the Tek Sing.
The Chinese merchant vessel set sail on Jan. 14, 1822, from Amoy (now Xiamen) in China bound for Jakarta, with a cargo of over 350,000 ceramic pieces, including tea pots, plates, dishes, cups, cosmetic jars, soup spoons, oil lamps, tiny figurine ornaments and glass beads.
Also on board were more than 1,500 Chinese immigrants, who planned to work as coolies on sugarcane plantations.
When passing through the Gelassa Strait (then the Gaspar Strait) off the coast of Bangka-Belitung, the Tek Sing hit a reef, foundered and sank. The immense number of lives lost led the vessel to be dubbed 'The Titanic of the East.'
After the 15-minute storytelling session that was imbued with humor, a guide directed the audience to the museum's collection of artifacts recovered from the wreck of the Tek Sing.
'We've designed it that way, because the purpose of the storytelling is to provide interaction between the museum and the visitors,' Yudhi said.
More than 200 people were on hand for three sessions of storytelling that day, at 8:30 a.m.,
9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Yudhi said that organizers planned the sessions for the morning to coincide with the city's car-free day program, which attracts on average about 100,000 people on any given Sunday.
Despite its outstanding collection, affordable ticket prices (about 50 US cents) and prime location on Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat in Central Jakarta, the National Museum received only 235,000 visitors in 2008 ' an average of less than a thousand visitors a day, according to a report from the Office of the National Development Planning Minister.
Although it is among the most visited museums in the country, the National Museum receives far fewer visitors than Taman Mini Indonesia Indah's Electricity and Renewable Energy Museum, for example.
That museum, which provides patrons with an interactive experience, received almost 500,000 visitors in the same period.
[email protected] has also compelled people like Faiz and Noni to actually visit the museum.
'We promised ourselves to take our daughter to educational programs on weekends,' Noni said, adding that she and Faiz wanted to familiarize their daughter with the content, even if she had yet to
Rangga Riantiarno from Teater Koma is in charge of writing the stories for the storytelling sessions. He says three stories have been presented to date: Keris Puputan Klungkung (The Kris of the Battle of Klungkung), Samurai Bersepeda (The Bicycling Samurai) and Karamnya Kapal Tek Sing (The Sinking of Tek Sing).
According to Rangga, the storytelling activities would be confined to the museum's new wing pending the investigation of the theft of four gold artifacts dating from the ancient Mataram era from the museum on Sept. 13. 'The investigation has closed the old wing,' Rangga said. In fact, one storytelling had to be canceled after the robbery. 'The related artifacts are inside the older wing.'
The @Museum team alternates storytelling with craft day.
Yudhi said that a craft day had been incorporated into the museum's existing programs. 'We have network of handicrafters who will set up booths here.'
The National Museum and the producers of [email protected] have committed to continuing the program with an additional two storytelling sessions before December.
The other two programs, slated to be presented before the end of the year, would be about a terracotta piggybank from the Majapahit era and on Diponegoro, the Javanese prince and national hero who led an uprising against the Dutch in the 19th century.
For more information visit Akhir Pekan di Museum page on Facebook or follow @museum_weekend on Twitter.
' Photos by Feri Latief for @Museum
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