One of the ways to learn more about the beauty of Indonesian culture is through visiting Museum Nasional (the National Museum). The National Museum encourages fun learning and has collections of Indonesian artefacts. Until 2015, you could find 141.899 Indonesian cultural artefacts at the museum that can be categorised into 7 collections, from history, ethnography, archaeology, ceramic, prehistory, geography, to numismatic and heraldic.

National Museum

The National Museum in Jakarta. Photo: Clarissa Tanurahardja

The museum is famous among Indonesian people and is often referred to as Museum Gajah (Elephant Museum) or Gedung Gajah (Elephant Building) due to the bronze elephant statue standing in the front yard. The statue was a gift from King Chulalongkorn (Rama v) of Thailand who visited the museum in 1871. People also called it Gedung Arca (Building Arca) because the National Museum contains historical statues from different periods.

The National Museum was built to preserve the richness of Indonesian culture and to encourage society to love Indonesian culture. Originally the Dutch Government founded the National Museum on the 24th of April 1778. It was developed under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The National Museum has a vision to be the centre of tourism and cultural information to enhance the intellectual life of the nation, reinforce friendship and unity among nations, and also to develop a sense of civilisation and national culture.

The ethnography collection is one of the most valuable and interesting showcases in the National Museum.It comprises of cultural objects of over 300 Indonesian ethnicities which includes miniatures of traditional houses, ceremonial objects, performing arts and traditional games and also agriculture and fishing equipment. All of the cultural objects reflect Indonesia’s philosophy Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Furthermore, the ethnography collection shows the cultural influences from the Hindu and Islam periods on colonial era that has been adjusted with the local Indonesian cultures.

Miniature Indonesian House

Miniature traditional house found at the museum. Photo: Clarissa Tanurahardja

The Numismatic and heraldic collection has money printing machines, coinage tools, coins, paper money, tokens which originated from the Indonesian ancient kingdoms, the colonial times under the British, Portuguese, Dutch and Japanese, also the independence period. It also has tremendous numismatic collections from other countries throughout Europe, Australia, Africa, America, and Asia. You also can find the medals, seals, and amulets that belong to the heraldic collections.

The National Museum features unique exhibitions in Building A and Building B. In Building A, the exhibition is based on the types of collections such as materials, regionalism, and science. You can find exhibition spaces like Living Textiles, Bronze Room, Prehistory Culture, into Room Ethnography Sumatra Region. While the arrangement on the new Building B is based on aspects of human culture and has the theme of “Cultural Diversity in Unity”. In this exhibition, it is classified into [1] Humans and the Environment, [2] Science, Technology and Economics, [3] Social Organisation and Settlement Patterns, and [4] Khasanah (Gold) and Ceramics.

The museum also provides public service, which prioritises efforts to enhance appreciation of cultural heritage and distribution of information of collection of National Museum to the general public, specifically to university students and children on schools. National Museum offers guidance to visitors, either to special guests (researchers or guests from other countries) and also to general visitors (university students, children, or anyone who wants to visit).

If you want to appreciate and learn more about National Museum and Indonesian culture, you can visit the official website at