Jakarta, previously also known as Batavia, is rich in history, culture, and heritage influences.
A melting pot of various communities making it the heart of Indonesia today, this densely populated city can be a challenge to adapt to and love. A close friend once said to me, “A city should have a soul for it to feel alive.” To me, Jakarta is that city bringing to life the diverse mix of people, culture, and food allowing us to explore it in various ways. I slowly started loving Jakarta, my city and home, after joining the Indonesian Heritage Society (IHS) as Friends of IHS in 2012.
Initially, the IHS, a non-profit organisation, began its activities with a small group of volunteers in the National Museum known as Ganesha Volunteers. The organisation eventually continued its activities to become the Indonesian Heritage Society. The long association with the National Museum is still strong today. IHS promotes knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of Indonesia’s cultural heritage by uniting diverse communities in activities focused on learning and sharing. The organisation also collaborates with various cultural institutions and museums in Jakarta, broadening the cultural and heritage exchange. Through this organisation, I was able to see Jakarta in a new light.
They have innumerable activities and events to expand your knowledge to discover wonderful Indonesia. As an art lover, I started with the art study group and slowly moved on to joining all their activities including guiding at the National Museum (Museum Nasional/Museum Gajah). Many of our friends from IHS started with the explorers’ section, but that came later for me. Joining explorers allowed me to delve more into my passion for photography and at the same time learn about our city’s hidden gems.
At IHS, we can volunteer in any section or activity without holding a position, allowing us to choose what suits us best based on our interests. I was able to delve into various sections assisting in organising explorer activities around Jakarta, preparing presentations with the study groups, enjoying a trip to Yogyakarta with Heritage Tours, assisting in organising events and lectures, and finally enrolling myself in becoming a Volunteer Museum Guide.
Joining various lectures and activities with like-minded friends from mixed cultures broadened my perspectives on Indonesia. Their views and knowledge fascinated and inspired me as a local. IHS also provides volunteer support and assistance to Indonesia’s cultural institutions. The volunteers at IHS form the heart of IHS, organising all events and activities. In 2013, I decided to volunteer for IHS starting with the Museum Languages section to later take on the Information Technology Co-Chair position for several years. Volunteering at IHS is an enriching experience as I learned new skills, worked with various sections, and made life-long friendships.
For me, the most impressionable memory has been after becoming a National Museum Volunteer Guide. A good friend and a fellow IT Co-Chair at the time encouraged me to join the IHS Museum Training Course. The course is a three-month intensive course that requires our full commitment but the results are rewarding. My adventurous journey as a guide has not stopped since. There is much to learn about Indonesia and as a Museum Guide, I have felt closer to my country. The Indonesian Heritage Society prepares us well during the course with qualified mentors to guide us through the process. The course is conducted every year in September to encourage more guides to volunteer at the museum. The most encouraging experience is when taking visitors around the Museum; we guides feel a sense of joy in exchanging information and seeing their happy faces at the end of the tour.
The Indonesian Heritage Society has seen its challenges and evolved during the pandemic. We tried to create various online sessions to keep Friends of the IHS active. The online sessions were a breakthrough for IHS as we broke our barriers and connected with past Friends of IHS who settled overseas to join us again. The sessions kept IHS going to stay connected. We had sessions discussing Indonesian literature and Indonesian textiles, to evening lectures including Night Study Group evening sessions sharing various insightful topics. Some of the topics to highlight are COVID-19 Impact in Indonesia, Diversity in Indonesian Flavours, Solving Indonesia’s Plastic Problem, and Borobudur Series.
As travel was impossible, we also created virtual tour sessions with the Heritage Tours section. We travelled virtually to Papua, Toraja, and Savu, dividing them into various sessions based on the regions travelled by our fellow Friends of IHS. These interactive sessions expanded our horizons and intrigued us to know more about the heritage and culture of these exotic regions in Indonesia.
In addition to travel, we also had a live virtual cooking demo as part of the Explorer’s section’s initiative to make the Indonesian savoury snack lemper. The cooking session was a step further for Friends of IHS to learn and make this snack from the comforts of their home. In September 2021, we held our Museum Training Sessions Online to train and recruit more guides. The training sessions were completed with nine new volunteer guides. This year we have slowly shifted to holding normal offline activities, including our first Annual Selamat Datang event in September 2022 at the National Museum.
What makes IHS dynamically diverse and unique is the numerous activities and volunteer opportunities it has to offer locally and internationally. This is what makes this organisation what it is today. I have made many friends through IHS and kept friendships even after they moved overseas and to their home countries. The knowledge and endless resources the IHS share through its activities allow us to enrich ourselves continuously. The journey for me as a National Museum Volunteer Guide and active Friend of IHS has been a humbling experience. It has created a lifelong memory that will always remain close to my heart. If you are looking for a place to learn about Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage or become a volunteer guide at the National Museum, then IHS is the perfect place for you!