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07 November 2011
Shared Cultural Heritage
Shared Cultural Heritage


A joint project of the Museum Nasional, Jakarta, and the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden. 



The world's two oldest and most important Indonesian collections are to be found in the Museum Nasional in Jakarta and the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. The objects composing them were collected from the eighteenth century by scholarly and military expeditions, officials, missionaries and individual collectors. Portions of these collections remained in Batavia – the present-day Jakarta – while part went to the museum in Leiden.

This collecting history, making the two museums in so many respects complementary to each other, has been the subject of recent study by researchers from Jakarta and Leiden. The research project resulted in the exhibition Warisan Budaya Bersama (Shared Cultural Heritage) in Jakarta and Amsterdam in 2005/2006.

The expression ‘shared cultural heritage’ may be interpreted in two ways: as possessions shared between two parties, or as a joint cultural inheritance.  Here, the expression has consciously been used in both its senses. The collections were of course once divided up between Batavia and Leiden. Yet at the same time they both share one and the same source: a collector, a donor, or an archaeological site. The collections constitute an inheritance that Indonesia and The Netherlands hold in common, and they must consequently be approached as a collectivity. Studying their collecting contexts is essential to this approach. There is a great deal to be learned from the history of the collections.

In this project the researchers have of course not been able to answer all questions. However, they do want to draw explicit attention to that which was often left unspoken in the past, from anxiety about possible politico/cultural consequences or because no one perceived the importance of such questions. We can only view the past with fully open eyes if we know more about the collecting contexts of historical, colonial collections: an episode from colonial history. Only then can we begin to produce models that make this future cooperation both possible and fruitful.
  Statue of Prajnaparamita, goddess of supreme wisdom, Singasari, Java, 13th century. For years this statue formed a focal point of the Leiden museum's public exhibition. In 1977 it was returned to Indonesia, where it is on permanent display in the National Museum.

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Collecting within a colonial context
Scholarly expeditions
Archaeological sites
Collectors, officials, missionaries
Military expeditions









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