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The Museum Istiqlal: An Indonesian Islamic Museum

An on-line slide presentation

of the exhibition galleries

Third International Conference on the Inclusive Museum

June 29-July 2
Yildiz Technical University
Istanbul, Turkey

Jonathan Zilberg, Ph.D

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
• The following images provide a sense of the lay out of
the Museum Istiqlal and the type of objects to be found
• Except for the splendid crimson textile with golden
prayer displayed prominently at the entrance no
individual specimens are presented here for reasons of
space and general focus.
• The collection includes photographs of pages of
illuminated manuscripts kept in the National Library,
photographs and models and architectural lay outs of
mosques from across the archipelago. There are art
works in all media including glass paintings, ceramics,
textiles and calligraphy. In addition, there are
endangered manuscripts, korans, copies of elaborately
inscribed grave stones, and much else.
• This encyclopedic collection of Islamic artifacts was
gathered together for the first Festival Istiqlal held in
1991 at which time the plans for building the museum
were announced to the public by the Vice President.

• The Museum Istiqlal and its companion building the Bayt

al Qur’an was officially opened on April, 20th, 1997 by
President Soeharto.

• Occupying an all important symbolic space at the front

entrance to the national theme park Taman Mini
Indonesia Indah, it attracts on average three thousand
visitors a month.
• The paper accompanying this presentation details the
history of the Museum Istiqlal.
• In particular, it discusses the problems the museum has
faced in terms of achieving its original mission while
emphasizing the quality of the collection, the original
curatorial work and the excellent attention to display and
• Above all the purpose of this paper and presentation is
to emphasize how little known and appreciated this
museum is – it being in effect the national Islamic
• In doing so, the paper hopes to stimulate greater
national and international interest in this excellent
resource for learning about the diversity and history of
Islam in Indonesia.
• This is particular opportune as this conference took
place during a state visit of the President of Indonesia,
Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Ankara.
I gratefully thank Prof Dr. H. M. Atho Mudzhar, Ketua Badan Litbang dan
Diklat and Ali Akbar, Curator at the Museum Istiqlal for so graciously
assisting me in this ongoing research project. I also thank Professor A. D.
Pirous for first having brought this museum to my attention and to Lies
Marcoes of The Asia Foundation and Annabel Teh Gallop of the British
Library for their assistance. More detailed acknowledgements related to the
research itself are provided in the paper submitted to The International
Journal of the Inclusive Museum.
I respectively dedicate this presentation and paper to the recently late Dr.
Uka Tjandrasasmita who has to date written the definitive analysis of the
Museum Istqlal, see “ Peran Bayt Al-Qur’an & Museum Istiqlal bagi
Pembangunan Bangsa Indonesia” in Suhuf, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2008, pp. 159-
Finally, the bibliography for the accompanying paper lists the excellent
catalogs of the collection published for the Festival Istiqlal in 1991. A
separate paper “An Anthropological Account of a Visit to the Museum
Istiqlal” forthcoming in Suhuf Vol. 3, No. 2, 2010 provides a detailed
bibliography of some publications relevant to the collection. It is presented
there in part as a teaching resource and is a direct outcome of the
opportunity presented by this conference in Istanbul.