One only has to look at the demolition of colonial-era buildings across the country to see that heritage and history here are undervalued.
Sahabat Museum (Friends of the Museum) is a community of Indonesians who want to change that attitude, especially in young people.
From monuments, museums and temples, the group has introduced and dissected the country’s past for its thousands of members.
Ade “Adep” Hardika Purnama, 33, founded the community with a simple mailing list on Yahoo Groups in 2002.
“Since then, the online forum has attracted more than 4,600 members. We use it to share everything, from stories about our national heroes to our tour itineraries,” Ade said.
The group’s first trip, in 2003, was to Merdeka Square and Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta. As many as 400 members took part in it.
Lala Amiroedin, 33, recalled that first outing seven years ago. “Back then, I had just returned from studying in the States and wanted to know more about Jakarta. My friend told me about this group and I thought it was really cool,” she said.
To date, the group has arranged 77 excursions. Participants range in age from young children to the elderly — even Adep’s 65-year-old mother, Wisdawati Amran, has taken part.
Adep said his mother used to take him on frequent trips to historic sites, such as those in the Old Town area of Jakarta, and he hopes parents today do the same for their children.
Sahabat Museum has also arranged visits to Cirebon, where a West Javanese kingdom once reigned, and Ambarawa, Central Java, which saw a battle between Indonesian and British forces in 1945 during the struggle for independence.
The group has also visited sites outside Java, such as Padang in West Sumatra and Banda Neira in Maluku, where the country’s founding fathers lived in exile during the Dutch occupation.
Sahabat Museum also invites guest speakers to give presentations about different historic sites. One such speaker is Lilie Suratminto, a history professor at the University of Indonesia.
“I always say that a nation that does not know its own history is an ignorant nation,” Lilie said. “So I am impressed to see that there are still a lot of people who are interested in learning about the country’s history and visiting museums.”
Outings are arranged by volunteers from the group and usually cost between Rp 35,000 ($4) and Rp 75,000 for trips in Jakarta, and from Rp 2 million to Rp 5 million for trips outside Java, covering everything from plane tickets, meals and accommodation.
May 13-16 Malang, Blitar and Kediri in East Java; Rp 2 million-Rp 3 million.
May 28-30 Bengkulu, where former President Sukarno lived in exile; Rp 2 million-Rp 3 million
October 25-31 Ternate, Tidore, Halmahera and Morotai islands in Maluku; Rp 6 million