The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Expressing his concern over the public's lack of interest in visiting museums, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono encouraged people Wednesday to visit museums to learn from the wisdom of the past.
"Let us relive the past glory and pride to build Indonesia to become a developed, advanced and prosperous state. From museums we can learn to appreciate differences and become more tolerant," Yudhoyono told the opening ceremony of the Gedung Arca (Statue Building) at the National Museum.
The president said Indonesia had to be more creative in expanding economic alternatives such as eco-tourism and heritage economics to survive in the future.
He said museums, as repositories of the nation's cultural heritage, could be a new economic resource in the future.
The newly inaugurated building, located next to the main building of the National Museum, has four differently themed floors.
The floors deal with people and the environment; economics and science; social organization and settlement patterns; and ceramics and gold.
The building also boasts an exhibition of Majapahit artifacts from an excavation site in Trowulan, a small village in Mojokerto, East Java.
The Minister for Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik told reporters that the ministry supported Yudhoyono's call and was sending officials to learn museology and marketing at Padjajaran University in Bandung.
Jero said museums across the country shared similar problems of how to attract visitors.
"The hardest task is to encourage people to visit museums frequently. In order to do that, we need people who are experts in both museology and marketing. Future museum experts must be able to promote museums economically," he said.
Jero said the government had provided Rp 100 billion (US$ 11.1 million) for the Directorate General of History and Archeology.
This year's budget for the National Museum alone is Rp 15 billion (US$ 1.6 million).
The government has 287 museums in the country, including 56 in Jakarta. Some of the museums, such as the National Museum, are managed by the central government, while the others such as the Maritime Museum and the Textile Museum are under the management of the city administration.
The National Museum occupies 76,000 square meters of land and houses 140,900 precious objects including rare money, ceramics and gold jewelry. Jero said the museum's collection was one of the best in Southeast Asia.
The museum's director, Retno Sulistianingsih, said she planned to increase the number of visitors by conducting popular events, such as a singing contest, in the museum.
"We've also held exhibitions in shopping malls to encourage people to see artifacts in places they like to hang out," she said.
But Retno said she would need greater funding to promote more events at the museum.
She added that the museum only had Rp 6 billion for this year's budget, with staff salaries being the biggest expense.
The culture counselor at the U.S embassy, Michael H. Anderson, who attended Wednesday's ceremony, suggested Indonesia make museums a bridge between the past and the present by using lively and contemporary topics to bring people to their collections.