Fire razes Indonesian maritime museum, burning down valuable historical collections

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-17 18:07:59|Editor: Zhou Xin
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by Abu Hanifah

JAKARTA, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Valuable historical collections kept in Indonesia's national maritime museum were burned down or damaged after a fire recently gutted most part of the museum building.

The museum blaze that took place on Tuesday has fiercely consumed at least 60 percent of the museum building, police said. Efforts are underway to assess the loss and save the remaining collections.

Jakarta police spokesperson Argo Yuwono said that police have deployed a forensic team to investigate the incident in the museum, located at the old city tourism spot in north part of the capital city.

Citing initial results of police's investigation, Argo said that the fire was possibly prompted by electrical shortcut in the building.

The Indonesia's national maritime museum was built during the era of Dutch colonial rule in 17th century. Its renovation was completed in November last year.

Deputy of Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Arief Oegroseno deeply regretted the fire incident in the museum, which he said may lead to credible loss of Indonesia's historical collections showing the nation's maritime might in the past.

Head of the maritime museum Husnuzon Nizam said the fire has severely affected the A and C sections in the building, which comprises of three A, B and C sections.

"The fire initially razed the C section in the north side and eventually rattled to the other sections. The C section has exhibition room that displays various historical collections," he said, monitoring the extinguishing process in the building carried out by the fire squad.

The fire also burned down the newly-installed set of diorama depicting the Java Sea Battle event during World War II contributed by the Indonesian Maritime Affairs Ministry.

He said that among the burned collections were sets of navigation instrument used by Indonesia's ancient seafarers, models of old Indonesian vessels as well as models of Dutch colonial ships and collections donated by foreign countries.

"We are now still identifying and verifying the exact number of historical collections razed by the fire," he said, adding that the museum kept around 700 historical collections before the fire.

Husnizon said that it may take at least six months to carry out works to repair and renovate the museum building.

During the Dutch colonial era, the building was used as warehouse and spice packing facility of Dutch East Indies company (VOC).

The building, which was gradually built from 1652 to 1771, facilitated the VOC's packing process on various spices and other commodities it collected from regions across Indonesia before being shipped to Europe.

The building compound was converted into state institutions' offices after Indonesia seized its independence in 1945. It was later on initiated as National Maritime Museum in 1977.

The fire in the maritime museum drew concerns among heritage preservation activists, who said immediate works to bring back the museum needs to be carried out soon.

Asep Kambali, co-founder of Indonesian Historia Community, said that the fire has drawn a deep sorrow among enthusiasts of Indonesian heritage sites and to the nation's tourism sector in general.

"The fire may vanish part of our past identities as a nation of seafarers," Asep said.

He expected replicas of the collections burned by the fire also needs to be crafted as well.