Museum Di Tengah Kebun grows with passion


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Among the greens: A Ganesha statue welcomes visitors to the Museum di Tengah Kebun (Museum in the Middle of the Garden) in Kemang, South Jakarta. The museum recently won the Museum Awards 2013. JP/Utami Diah Kusumawati

Finding attractive museums in Jakarta is difficult due to their unwelcoming appearance and limited collections. But Museum di Tengah Kebun (Museum in the Middle of a Garden) in South Jakarta is appealing to visitors due to its unique environment and variety of exhibits.

The museum, which recently won the Museum Awards 2013 as the best private museum in town, is built on a 4,200-square plot and the building stands in the middle of a vast garden brimming with local plants. The grounds of the museum, on Jl. Kemang Timur, boast fern, suji, pandan, coconut, palm and other local trees. A number of archeological statues, including a Ganesha from Central Java, welcome visitors to the museum.

According to museum coordinator Mirza Djalil, the museum offers 1,744 exhibits from 63 countries and 21 provinces in Indonesia. The exhibits include valuable archeological artifacts from France, England, China, Japan and Mexico. There is also silverware and ceramics from Asia, Mediterranean antiquities, 19th century furniture and bronze statues from Europe and America.

The museum is divided into 17 rooms with historical names such as Dewi Sri (Goddess Sri), Buddha Thailand, Mari Jepang (Japanese Mari), Kaisar Wilhem (Wilhem Caesar), Cirebon,  Loro Blonyo, Dinasti Ming (Ming Dinasty)  and Singa Garuda (Garuda Lion). Each room represents a particular theme.

“In the Dewi Sri room visitors can find kitchenware utensils from the past,” he said.

Mirza told The Jakarta Post that his uncle, Syahrial Djalil, did not intend to build a museum.

In 1987, Syahrial, who was then running an advertising company, wanted to build a house where he could spend the rest of his. He chose Kemang because at the time the area was like a country village.

“Syahrial thought this place could bring a sense of serenity he coveted,” Mirza said.

Syahrial told architect Timmy Setiawan to build a house that would be suitable to display his archeological interest.

Syahrial’s interest in archeological materials grew well after being acquainted with PK Ojong, one of the co-founders of Kompas daily, who imparted much knowledge about archeology and history.

Mirza said that Syahrial used old materials to create the nuance of antiquity when building the house.

“Syahrial, for example, used 19th century red bricks for the walls and bought ornaments from a women’s prison in Bukit Duri, South Jakarta, to be put on all the doors,” he said, adding that visitors said the ornaments produced an old Batavia feel.

Syahrial filled his house with antique products bought from the flea market on Jl. Surabaya in Central Jakarta.

“At that time, many original old things were sold at the flea market. So, my uncle liked to buy antique pieces there,” Mirza said.

He said his uncle also collected more valuable items from all over Indonesia.

“He even hunted out Indonesian archeological pieces sold at international auction houses,” Mirza said.

“Many items were bought through Christie’s, an internationally renowned auction house,” he said.

Mirza said that Syahrial, who has no children, decided to open the house as a public museum in 2009, when he realized he was too old to continue his collective interests.

“My uncle realized […] he wanted to share his collection with the public and pass on his knowledge to the next generation,” Mirza said, adding that his uncle hoped visitors would be as passionate as he had been.

“He does not over promote the museum but expects those who want to understand history will come here,” said Mirza. (tam)

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