Well worth a visit
Published/Last edited or updated: 2nd March, 2018
Dedicated to Probolinggo’s favourite son (though he was actually born in Central Java), Museum Dokter Mohamad Saleh traces the life and times of Mohamad Saleh and the hospital he founded.
Born on March 15, 1888, Mohamad Saleh was a graduate of STOVIA (School tot Opleiding van Indische Artsen), a school set up by the Dutch in Batavia (now Jakarta) to educate local physicians to help alleviate the health problems of the local populace. Once he completed his training, Saleh was dispatched to a number of regional centres including Central Sulawesi and Central Java before finally ending up in Probolinggo.
The house was residence, medical clinic, meeting venue and gathering point and all these strands can be seen with a visit to the museum today. Unfortunately there is no English signage whatsoever on the premises but if you are in luck (as we were) an English-speaking staff member will walk you through and explain what you’re looking at—even if much of it is self-explanatory.
The tour commences with a photographic history of the Doctor and his family—they had eleven kids so there are quite a few photos—and then you move through the house, passing through the bedrooms, dining room, and meeting room. Rooms are sparsely furnished, but some feel like the contents have been left as is—it felt more abandoned in situ than deliberately staged. Note the large Dutch safes, some rooms with more than one. We swung one open to see a bankbook laying in there still as if it has been cleaned out in haste.
After the main house you then move to the hospital, which was Probolinggo’s first. Little remains save a sink in the corner, a few metal framed beds (no mattresses) and a marble stopped table which was used for sterilising medical equipment.
You then move on to our favourite part of the museum, what must have been the Doctor’s consulting room. Behind a large desk was a small library and two medicine cabinets stocked with their supplies from decades ago. Staff will let you open the cupboard doors to take a clearer photo, but no touching. The library was stacked with late 19th and early 20th century books and publications, all in a pretty poor state unfortunately. The Violet Ray Generator is pretty special too.
The house is also home to two gramophones and an impressive record collection—it seems the Doctor liked to work to some tunes.
The building doubled as a meeting room with the Dutch (according to our guide the wine glasses were only for the Dutch...) and also as a gathering point for young people from across the archipelago to discuss a wide range of issues and topics. This study group, along with others in the country, went on to form the basis for the nationalist Partai Indonesia Raya (The Great Indonesia Party).
While the museum would be greatly improved with some English signage, even without a guide, this is well worth a look. Admission is free.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.