The former house of a lone businessman with a lifetime passion in hunting scattered Indonesian artefacts at auction houses abroad to be preserved as an object of study for later generations store thousands of collection of all sizes at literally every corner of what is now a museum in south Jakarta.
Brick-walled from dense district in Kemang, 80% of the total area of Museum di Tengah Kebun is dedicated for open space, whereas the twenty percent resides a single storey house with large openings to get the best of the surronding nature. On daylight, doors facing the inner garden would open to create an enormous opening at the living room, allowing plenty of light and air. The size of opening which similarly takes the entire size of the wall is also found in the bathroom, large enough to fit the capacity of the living room. The progressive plan is shortlived. It is now permanently shielded with nets to fend of mosquitos.
Apart from its size, the house museum exhibits mundane design with gable roof, as is popularly applied in tropical countries to better regulate the temperature and wash out dense rainwater.
Named Museum di Tengah Kebun, or Museum in the Garden, this tropical style house retains a status as a residence and a public museum, which gives an example of the possibility of coexistence between the two, although unpractical as it may seem. But the founder has an overarching dream of his own. It is not noble because his act can be much triggered by insatiable need to own things. There are stories such as buying an object worth a luxury sedan, or obtaining a Hindu artefact in exchange for building a school in a remote village where artefacts are treated as stepping stones or washboard. But when the owner decided to let the public enter his private home for regular basis, it does not sound so selfish anymore.
It is unique in that the museum retains all of its original features of the house. The dining room, for instance, remains to serve its function, rather than redesigned to optimize viewing gallery, as is the common case for conserved and recreated historical buildings. Guest room and the living room exude the genuine feeling to welcome guests and to have a relaxing family time, respectively.
Likewise, the interior decoration accentuates typical home, just with a whole lot more stuff.
In comparison with European patronage to turn lavish residences as museum such as Museum Van Loon in Amsterdam, or Netherlands’ national museum Huis Doorn, house-turn-museum is not new in this 70 years old republic.
The former residence of art patron Toety Heraty Roosseno since 1969 opened for public in 1993 as a museum. It frequently holds temporary art exhibition in what is now called Galeri 6 Cemara in Menteng, the upscale area of central Jakarta.
In 1962 Indonesian painter Affandi built his home in Sleman to serve as a museum a decade later.
The international painter Don Antonio Blanco settled in Ubud, Bali and has ever since opened a museum where visitors can see many of his works.
At a different extreme, a case of an ordinary villager Sriyanto in Yogyakarta turning his obliterated house into Museum Sisa Hartaku after Merapi volcanic eruption suggests Indonesians endeavor to preserve memory, even at grass root level.
Much older houses such as Rumah Tjong A Fie in Medan and House of Sampoerna in Surabaya has opened for public to learn the history of successful business ventures by Chinese immigrants in the then Netherlands East Indies, although perhaps it was made so without the consent of the deceased owners.
Museum di Tengah Kebun certainly gets the consent of the owner, a retired advertising business mogul Sjahrial Djalil, a protege of the so-called Indonesian forefather of advertising Mr. Nuradi. Widely known for his slogan for Piaggio “lebih baik naik vespa“, Mr. Djalil started working for Mr. Nuradi in Intervista in 1965.
Six years later he founded Adforce, which later became JWT Adforce, the Indonesian branch of JWT global advertising company, a subsidiary of WPP Group.
It was supposedly in this wealthy period that Mr. Djalil frequently made house invitations to Indonesian elites of late administration. In 1997 Adforce was bought and merged with JWT advertising, which led him to retirement.
He founded the museum under the management of a foundation Museum di Tengah Kebun, whose members consisting of muslim intellectual and the former chairman of Islamic organisation Muhammadiyah Ahmad Syafii Maarif, economist Faisal Basri who independently ran for 2011 Jakarta gubernatorial election, and lecturer Imam Prasodjo. Before stroke aftermath rendered him disabled, Mr. Djalil led the tour himself around the house.
In a frail enthusiasm, Mr. Djalil still welcomed new generation of visitors on a wheelchair before he took another rest in his bedroom despite having the visitors allowed to walk in as the house tour continues.
All those years of travelling the world and frequenting auctions had accumulated his collection of antiques and artefacts.
Nonetheless, in his bedrest he unassumingly watches through the window and hear beyond the wall, and through the open air in the garden, people interaction in his grand design: giving it all to the later generation to experience and learn about history he restlessly collected piece by piece.
To see more pictures of Museum di Tengah Kebun, visit think archipelago Flickr account https://www.flickr.com/photos/purnadiphanphotography/