It’s 15th September 2022, and the Museum Nasional Jakarta Auditorium is reverberating with a festive audience. As the traditional conical Nasi Tumpeng is being cut and the top shared with the highest honored person, in an age-old symbolic ritual of gratitude and harmony, two institutions are gathering to celebrate an annual event that brings together volunteers, past, and present, the Selamat Datang IHS (Welcome to IHS). | Text Kata Ivancov, Photos Indonesian Heritage Society.
The host is the Museum Nasional Indonesia, and the foundation taking the center stage is the Indonesian Heritage Society, two institutions with several decades of shared history. It was in the spirit of cooperation, what Indonesians call ‘gotong royong’, that the IHS offered its support as a non-profit to the Museum Nasional, amongst other institutions, a partnership that created long-lasting results for the museum’s collection, through museum publications, inventory assistance, museum tours and more.
Throughout its history, there have been many volunteers and leaders taking IHS to where it stands today, and the opening speeches from Ibu Lily Santoso, on behalf of the IHS Chairman, Prof. Dr. Anak Agung Gde Agung, together with Ibu Anya Robertson, its president, reminded everyone of its resilience and sense of belonging to the rich cultural life of Indonesia.
Ibu Anya, together with the vice presidents and co-chairs of each section completed the picture of the extensive array of activities the foundation is offering, from museum-related projects and tours, and school programs, to public lectures, study groups, heritage tours, and language-specific sections. One of the strengths of IHS is indeed the global multinational community, which allowed IHS to promote Indonesian heritage to speakers of various languages. But this does not mean that the organization is promoting segregation based on nationality. Ever since its foundation, IHS has been supported and led by dedicated Indonesian public figures, and this is also reflected in the constant interaction between local and expat volunteers.
This time, as in previous years, Selamat Datang welcomed newcomers to join each section stand, meeting the volunteers and finding out about activities in which they can also take part. Volunteers, new and old, have been the lifeline of IHS heritage work, and again a lot of interest has been shown from participants in each area on display. As Ibu Sri Hartini, the director of Museum Nasional, mentioned in her opening speech “new volunteers are needed every year to sustain and ensure the success of the IHS operation and activities”.
Undeniably, the pandemic period tested the IHS, together with other NGOs, forcing the foundation to consolidate its online activities, yet there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and today over 300 worldwide friends are part of our community. Why would joining IHS be of such importance? Like any other non-profit, IHS relies on its friends’ contributions and volunteering to continue its programs. The MNI Auditorium event is an extended invitation for everyone to find out what the IHS stands for and get involved in any particular section by meeting the co-chairs at their Section stands, without any formalities. Refreshments also helped break the ice and fondle new friendships.
Museum Section proudly showcased the Museum Tours branch, with new volunteer guides being trained as we speak, always reinventing the Museum Nasional collection interpretation through thematic tours. With the reopening of the newly curated museum galleries, IHS guides stepped up in response and created meaningful tours available on demand. Beyond the tours, participants could also learn about other projects in association with institutions such as Museum Bahari, one of the growing projects at the moment, involving support in several areas.
For many people, the first contact with IHS was through the public lectures series organized under the Community Section, a truly vibrant community indeed, with a variety of events, study groups, evening lectures, explorers groups, heritage tours, foreign language events, and more. One could say, if you like Indonesia, then you would certainly find at least one IHS offer to suit your taste, from local Jakarta heritage to textiles.
Last, but not least, the volunteers from the Operations Sections, the ‘engine’ behind so many of the IHS activities, invited visitors to take a peak at the behind-the-scenes of some IHS essential operations, such as the Library. IHS Library is the dedicated research, meetings, and event hub, run by volunteers, a well-equipped unique resource in the middle of Jakarta.
Although these Sections would appear as distinct entities, they form together a well-connected puzzle, neither of them being too small or insignificant, but essential parts of a whole. Selamat Datang is one of the rare opportunities for seeing them all come together to celebrate and share the ideals that have been driving the Indonesian Heritage Society.