January 10, 2009

Fatahillah Museum, The Icon of Old Town

There is a famous museum in Jakarta, located in old town area. Its official name is Museum Sejarah Jakarta (Jakarta History Museum) but it’s more be known as Fatahillah Museum, according to the name of a prince from Cirebon Sultanate who was conquering a harbor town of Sunda Kelapa, and re-named it to Jayakarta on 16th century.

Short History
At 17th century this area was a center of Batavia City (later become Jakarta). It is a capital city of Netherland Indies Government at colonial era, an era of Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), a trading company from Netherland. This 2 floors colonial style building was built on January 1707 by order of Petronella Wilhelmina Van Hoorn, daughter of a Netherland Indies General Governor, Joan Van H
oorn, and finished on 1710. At its time, this building was used as a Stadhuis (City Hall) for Netherland Indies Government to replace the old City Hall which was built on 1620 by General Governor Jan Pieterszoon Coen, founder of Batavia. As a government building at colonial era, there were offices; court chamber; and underground prisons in it.

There are 5 units of underground prison cell in this building to jail thieves, robbers, murderers, rebels, and desertion military officers. Made from concrete wall with iron bars as its door, it’s 8 x 3 meters wide without any proper ventilation beside the door. There are many iron balls used to fettered prisoners ankle in these cells with 100 kgs weight and volley ball size. Every cell commonly filled to 80 prisoners. There is a story told that these prisons were ever filled with 500 (100 each?!?) Chinese people on Chinese rebellion incident on 1740, only served with watery rice and water, while waiting for their execution time one by one on the city hall square. It was told that a Netherland General Governor of Ceylon, Petrus Vuyst, had also jailed in here, not because he was a criminal but because an insane reason. A historian, Dr. F. De Haan, called these prisons as a donker gat (dark hall) that makes anybody feel suddenly frightened only by entering it.

Then, on March 30, 1974, Jakarta Governor, Ali Sadikin, formalized this building as a museum and opened to public. At that time this place was become a focus of a big restoration plan of old Batavia (now Old Town).

Inside The Museum
As a museum, it provides the historical background of Jakarta
. According to the records of The Culture and Museums Department of Jakarta, this museum has 23,500 collections.

In the 1st floor we can find many collections of antiquities and porcelains, VOC symbol statue, archeological discovery from prehistorically era, earthenware vessels, statues, and ancient inscription. There are also many display objects such as traditional Betawi kitchen, cigarette stall, becak (pedicab), meatballs cart, etc., which are symbolize the Betawi culture, culture of Jakarta ethnic who was born and bred for generations in Jakarta for hundred of years.

In the 2
nd floor, there are many of antique furniture used by the Netherland rulers of Batavia. In this floor we can find large windows facing to the lawn. Beside one of these windows there is a written plate told that through these windows, the leaders of Netherland Government gave their orders to execute criminals by hang in the middle of the square.

All these collection are placed in several rooms such as Prehistoric Room, Tarumanagara Room, Fatahillah Room, Jayakarta Room, Sultan Agung Room, and M.H. Thamrin Room.

Outside The Museum
In the front of the building, there is a wide square used as a plaza in colonial era. At the both side of the entry door, there are 2 cannons which stand across the cobblestone square. In the middle of the square, there is antique fountain water. There is also a souvenir shop in this area

In the back yard, we can find the famous “Si Jagur” cannon, a 16th century Portuguese cannon which is believed has a mystical power. Across that sacred cannon, there is the Hermes God statue which used to be placed on Harmoni Bridge. I will write about these famous objects next time.

There was a Justice Goddess statue stand on the top of the tower of this museum, but now it is gone. It was stolen some years ago. It was figured as a goddess with blindfolded eyes, sword in the right hand, and a pair of scales in the left hand, symbolize the absolute justice.

This museum is located on Taman Fatahillah (Fatahillah Park) Street no. 2, West Jakarta. It’s placed on a 13,000 meters square land. There are several museums around it. On the east of this museum there are Puppets Museum and Ceramics Museum which are stand side by side. On the west are Bank Indonesia Museum and Bank Mandiri Museum. But Fatahillah Museum is the most famous museum in this area and become a main tourism object for Old Town Area. It is the icon for Old Town Area.

The square, which as known as Fatahillah Park, is become a place for many events held by Jakarta Government, especially on
special occasions like Jakarta Birthday or Indonesia Independence Day commemoration. Just across the yard, there is a nice café which is called Batavia Café. As a tourism destination, it is natural if there are many trade stands filled that place. Most of them selling garment products like jackets, T-shirts, blue jeans, etc.

Jakarta Government had just renovation this area, especially the public infrastructure like the side walk and the square. You can see there are a lot of stone balls in many size spread around this area.

You can reach Fatahillah Museum by Trans Jakarta Bus and stop at the Kota terminal, or you can use electric train and stop at Jakarta Kota Station, then walk by foot to the museum which is only 100 meters from the station or Trans Jakarta Bus terminal. If you ride your own car, from Monas, just go straight to north through Gajah Mada Street.

Fatahillah Museum is open every day, except Monday and national holiday. It opens from 8.30 AM – 2.30 PM on Tuesday to Thursday; 8.30 AM – 11.30 AM on Friday; 8.30 AM – 1.30 PM on Saturday; and 8.30 AM – 2.30 PM on Sunday. Cover charge is cheap, only Rp 2,000 for adult and Rp 500 for children.

This is the right place for you who want to now about Jakarta history.

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