History, money, architecture
Published/Last edited or updated: 4th July, 2018
Museum Bank Indonesia offers a well–presented and revealing history of Indonesia (with a focus on economics)‚ in a beautifully restored colonial building in Jakarta’s historic Kota Tua (old city), easily the best museum in this area.
Even if the financial industry is of little interest (don’t be turned off by the word “Bank”), the history is engaging and the architecture alone is well worth a look. The imposing edifice was built for De Javasche Bank in the early 20th century, designed by Dutch architect Eduard Cuypers who was known for incorporating local elements into his design—if you look carefully you will see Kala heads in the pediments of the inner courtyard, an element common in Hindu temples in Java. He later went on to build branches of the bank in Bandung, Medan, Surabaya and Makassar. Post independence the bank was nationalised and Bank Indonesia went on to build new headquarters in central Jakarta in the 1960s when this grand complex was left to deteriorate until restoration began in 2006, opening as a museum three years later.
After purchasing your ticket at the beautiful old tellers’ grille, proceed to the hushed cool marble halls of the cashiers’ room with a towering ceiling and beautiful lead-light windows that flood the room with dappled light. Step into the security cages as realistic and somewhat creepy mannequins of Chinese and Dutch businesspeople help bring the scene to life in this high security area. The presentation then moves back a few centuries to the seafaring days of the early spice trade in the archipelago—creaking floorboards and the sound of waves add to the whizz bang effects and multimedia displays. There’s even a smell-o-rama zone where it’s possible to smell cloves, cinnamon and pepper.
More creepy life-size dioramas are mixed with slick presentations and informative explanations. Visual timelines in both English and Indonesian continue telling the sorry of the history of colonisation through to Japanese occupation, the struggle for independence and post-independence development of the nation. Exhibits depicting traditional trades include some beautiful displays of batik and a collection of quirky old money boxes.
You’re drawn into modern times with a jolt—flashing lights, swirling spirals and the tumbling of the rupiah illustrate the 1997 financial crisis with images of riots, and an ATM that has been kicked and burnt along with a burnt out motorbike on display. A map of Jakarta pinpoints riot zones and the gravity of the time is palpable. The display then moves into the recovery and explains the post crisis banking reform in Indonesia. Don’t worry if your eyes start to glaze over at this point, just move into the next section of the museum where you are back in earlier days in the beautiful wood panelled directors’ room.
You then have the opportunity to explore the architecture around the central courtyard of the building and enter a green tiled meeting room. Look out for the grandfather clock from 1928 and the beautiful stained glass windows with graphic depictions of commodities that were the backbone of the nation.
From this point, head to the vaults, while we don’t think the stacks of gold bars on display are real, it still seems to attract a crowd—get your gold selfies here. The next exhibition focuses on the folding stuff itself with the history of money in Indonesia from ancient times when you could do your shopping with shells, beads and stone axes through until the modern era. A display on the design of banknotes with engraving tools and metal plates is of interest. Note the breadth and density of the vault’s doors as you leave, attempting a robbery here would have been quite an undertaking.
The final exhibition in the museum focuses on the history of the building, highlighting architectural elements. A display of column capitals shows the variation in the details and early photographs sit alongside a model of the building. Exiting the museum take one last look at the architectural details, look up to see the elegant arched ceiling, the detailed geometric grilles and more magnificent stained glass.
Once back on the street, check out the sellers with piles of money—we thought it was fake, but our local friends assure us it’s brand new cash that is sold to give as gifts during celebrations such as Ramadan and Chinese New Year, or simply as small change that the sellers add a small mark-up to.
Guided tours are available Tuesday to Sunday at 10:00 and 13:00. Visitors to the museum are not permitted to carry bags which can be left in the cloak room but if you wish to carry small items, you are offered a clear shopping bag. A cafe with a couple of food stalls operates on the ground level near the exit. Museum Bank Mandiri is next door and though the museum is perhaps not as interesting as Museum Bank Indonesia, the architecture is defiantly worth seeing plus you have the opportunity to see the safety deposit vault as well.
Address: 3 Jalan Pintu Besar Utara, Jakarta
T: (0212) 6001 588;
Coordinates (for GPS): 106º48'47.96" E, 6º8'15.22" S
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: 5,000 rupiah. Groups are free by prior arrangement.
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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