Photo: Don‘t make them like they used to.

Museum of Central Java Ranggawarsita

Our rating:

The Museum of Central Java Ranggawarsita is the province’s flagship cultural and ethnographic museum with an impressive collection of cultural treasures, housed unfortunately in a building that is literally falling in upon them.

We were shocked and saddened to see large sections of the ceiling crashed though display cases in some sections and dirt, grime and cobwebs everywhere as well as broken light fittings that made it impossible to view many exhibitions, an appalling state of affairs that the Department of Eduction and Culture, who administer the museum should be ashamed of.

Stories for life. Photo taken in or around Museum of Central Java Ranggawarsita, Semarang, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Stories for life. Photo: Sally Arnold

Despite the shameful conditions, the artefacts certainly hold interest and make it worth a visit, at least to fill a rainy day. The museum is named for Raden Ngabehi Ranggawarsita (1802–1873), a Javanese poet of the Surakarta Sultanate (Solo), and is located on a roundabout as you head into the city from the airport in a Javanese joglo-style building. The exhibitions are displayed in four interconnected double-storey buildings around a central courtyard that houses a collection of ancient stone sculptures. Most information is in Indonesian, but some exhibits are also labelled in English.

Of interest is the extensive collection of puppets including some fascinating and rare wayang suket, shadow puppet made from woven grass—take a torch to see them properly, as most of the lights are missing in this gallery. Some beautiful calligraphy includes engraved copper plates, hand inscribed lontar books and books printed in Javanese script as well as old Korans in Arabic.

One ring to rule them all. Photo taken in or around Museum of Central Java Ranggawarsita, Semarang, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

One ring to rule them all. Photo: Sally Arnold

Fine batiks are possibly in the worst condition with glass cabinets broken in one section and the cloth rotting from exposure to the elements, but the craftsmanship is exquisite. Other exhibitions include some patriotic dioramas documenting the Indonesian battle for independence, and easily missed, near the exit a room showcasing some splendid gold ornaments from the eight to the tenth century.

The museum is about three kilometres west of Tugu Muda. The trans Semarang bus corridor four with stops along Jalan Permuda and Jalan Imam Bonjol passes nearby (3,500 rupiah). In contrast, visit Semarang’s well maintained Semarang Contemporary Art Gallery is a renovated historic building in the heart of Kota Lama.

Museum of Central Java Ranggawarsita
1 Jalan Abdulrahman Saleh, Semarang
Mo–Th: 08:00–15:30 Fr: 08:00–16:00 Sa–Su: 08:00–15:00
T: (0247) 602 389 
Admission: 4,000 rupiah

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