Ancient Javanese manuscripts return home after 30 years

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

Efforts to trace and recover rare Javanese relics missing from Solo’s Radya Pustaka Museum have unexpectedly discovered that about 3,000 ancient manuscripts were taken to Australia almost 30 years ago.

While no one seems to know whether any of the manuscripts came from the museum itself, John Paterson, an Australian researcher of Javanese culture who has been holding onto them since 1980, has told the Solo Legislative Council that he would like to hand them over to the museum to be better taken care of.

The Radya Pustaka Museum, which is the oldest museum in Indonesia but has been plagued by the disappearance of many items in its collection, has been at the center of recent attention over concerns about its financial position and the competence of past administrators.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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