The Jakarta Textile Museum was founded in 1976 as the result of a concerted effort spearheaded by Ali Sadikin, the Governor of Jakarta at the time. It was established in honor of Mme. Tien Soeharto, lndonesia’s First Lady, who officiated at the opening on June 28, 1976.
Textiles have always been an important part of life in lndonesia, whether as components of dress or as ritual and ceremonial objects. Traditional textiles constitute a rich aspect of lndonesian culture and a testament to the degree of technological expertise and artistic skill attained by their makers. They also provide a window into local history.
By the mid-1970s, the use of traditional textiles, the understanding of their use, and the quantity and quality of production were very evidently in decline. Some had even become extremely rare. This motivated a group of Jakarta’s leading citizens to establish an organization dedicated to the preservation and study of lndonesian textiles. The Himpunan Wastraprema (Society of Textile Lovers) donated 500 high-quality textiles, gleaned from the collections of its members. The city of Jakarta responded by providing accommodation in a lovely old building in the Tanah Abang district.
The Museum continues to grow and develop to respond to the needs of its visitors. Periodically throughout the year, it cooperates with private collectors and various institutions in holding short thematic shows in between its regular displays, such as the ASEAN Textiles Exhibition and a Festival of lndonesian Textiles in general, each accompanied by a seminar and a cultural “performance related to the theme of the show. It also hosts special exhibitions and conferences on various aspects of traditional lndonesian textiles.
In 2010, in commemoration of the inscription of lndonesian batik as an lntangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, the Batik Gallery was opened in a building next to the Museum with collections belonging to the Yayasan Batik lndonesia (lndonesian Batik Foundation) and its members. On display are numerous examples of batiks in rooms focused on particular areas of production throughout lndonesia – West, Central and East Java, as well as Sumatra, and other regions including Papua – with an additional collection of antique cloths. All this has resulted in an increasing number of visitors to the museum.
Decorated with Tuscan columns and fluted pilasters typical of the architecture of its time, the high-roofed, one-storey building that houses the Textile Museum at Jalan Aipda K.S. Tubun dates from the early 19th century. Constructed by a Frenchman, it was then sold to the Turkish Consul, who added buildings on both sides of the estate; the Batik Gallery is now located in the one on the right hand side. The consul’s son-in-law, Sayid Abdullah bin Alwi Alatas, locally known as “Tuan Baghdad” because of his philanthropy, later purchased the property and resided in the main building. An extended eave was subsequently added around the structure, which protects the porch and tall windows from the tropical sun and heavy rains. This eave is trimmed with a graceful edging in a style today known in lndonesia as renda or lace.*
*Text from: Judi Achjadi, The Jakarta Textile Museum (Jakarta: Indonesian Heritage Society, 2004), 11-13.