Indonesia’s Radya Pustaka Museum receives a rp24 billion (US2.6 million) budget for renovations this year. You may remember this museum from a while back because of a scandal involving the theft of statues from its collection, as well as recent attempts to digitise the manuscript collection.
What is the cost of maintaining the Radya Pustaka Museum in Surakarta? The museum, which turns 120 next year, houses a wide range of artefacts from Indonesia including ancient sculpture and a large collection of ancient books. The museum is seeking to increase its funding from 197 million rupiah (USD20,000) to 300 million (USD31,000) in order to maintain its current collections.
I’ve previously mentioned the plight of the ancient manuscripts kept at the Radya Pustaka Museum in Solo and how they have been literally rotting away in cupboards here. It seems that a workshop has been conducted recently to teach museum and heritage professionals how to prepare and scan/photograph these manuscripts into a digital format as a means of preservation. The work sounds pretty similar to what I’m doing with documenting rock art. Digitising data has the potential to be stored indefinitely, but maintaining digitising collections is a constant process and requires a long-term outlook to keep up with the level of technological change. I’m personally keeping four backups of my data on recordable discs and portable hard drives – but these things only have a shelf life of 5 years, by which time I will probably need to change the recording media (think about how you’ve had to evolve from CD-R to DVD-R to flash drives and portable hard drives in the last five years). Just over a decade ago there was a European effort to maintain a database of rock art that was being stored in a now-defunct Kodak photo cd digital format – I’m not sure if the effort still exists, or if the data can still be drawn from the obsolete proprietary system. In contrast, these ancient manuscripts and rock art have survived relatively well for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The moral of the story: digital collections might be a great way for facilitating mass dissemination and saving space, but we haven’t actually seen any long term solutions for storage of digital collections. The only safe recourse currently for archiving digital information is to make multiple backups and to do so in regular intervals that keeps up with the pace of technology – and I suspect that the cost will eventually outstrip the benefit in the future.
photo credit: pcardoso
Digital Age Provides Hope For Ancient Manuscripts
Jakarta Globe, 26 June 2009
For all the bad press the Radya Pustaka Museum in Solo has been getting this past year, it goes to show that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. The new controversy is centred on the discovery of fake antique puppets, initially thought to be a hundred years old, but discovered to be made in the 1980s. There is an upside to the story though – for all the troubles the museum has been experiencing, it saw a spike in visitors in the past month. However, 700 visitors in the last month puts the average to about 22 visitors daily – which still makes it a pretty poor average in the first place.
Fake Antique Puppets Found in Radya Pustaka Museum
Tempo Interaktif, 01 June 2009
A literature foundation in Surakarta has announced the digitizing a quarter of the 6,000 ancient manuscripts and books in their possession – with the entire collection to be completed by the end of the year. The founder of this initiative, John Paterson, was in the news last week when he said that he was returning the scripts in his possession to the city of Solo for safekeeping. I certainly hope that such a digitalised collection will be made open access for everyone to access and study.
Under the safekeeping of an Australian scholar, some 3,000 ancient Javanese manuscripts are to be returned to their home country – but it seems that the Radya Pustaka Museum, the intended destination for the manuscripts, is not equipped to hold such brittle material. The beleaguered museum has been in the news of late because of its role in a counterfeit antiques scandal as well as the discovery of missing items from its inventory.
Javanese Relics to Be Returned But More Treasures Still Missing
Jakarta Globe, 24 May 2009
It seems that the Radya Pustaka Museum in central Java has even more artefacts missing, this time a set of ancient scrolls. The museum was in the news last year when it was discovered that some of its bronze statues were fakes that were replaced by antiquities dealers.
A Cultureâ€™s Heritage Facing Ruin And a Museum Unable to Save It
05 May 2009, Jakarta Globe
Hashim Djojohadikusumo, a businessman and a collector implicated in last year’s theft of antiquities involving the Radya Pustaka Museum in SurakartaÂ expresses his anger and innocence in the scandal.
Collector angry for being named in stolen statue case
The Jakarta Post, 28 November 2008
The Radya Pustaka Musem is in the news again, after the discovery that a substantial number of bronze artefacts in the museum’s collection are in fact, fakes. The oldest museum in Indonesia was in the news late last year when a theft ring was busted, involving some of the staff of the museum who made copies of the museum’s artefacts and sold off the originals.
Solo Police Investigates Theft of Museum’s Bronze Statue
Tempo Interactive, 25 September 2008 Read More
Investigations into the theft of artefacts from a Javanese museum takes a sinister turn when an expert witness is found dead beside the highway.
Witness in museum theft found dead
The Jakarta Post, 10 February 2008
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