A journey along Jalan Gajah Mada doesn’t just take you from the center of Jakarta to bustling Chinatown. It takes you back in time – from the gleaming business district south of Monas all the way up to the crumbling colonial Dutch quarters at Kota.
It’s an area of Jakarta I like a lot. You have the history, the shopping and the insalubrious delights of Manga Besar’s nightlife. What else could you possibly want?
But I digress. This post is supposed to be about Gedung Arsip Nasional, or the National Archives Building, a simply wonderful old Dutch building built in (or around) 1760.
Bearing in mind the total traffic mayhem in this part of town, the best way to get here is by the busway (which links Blok M in south Jakarta to Kota in the north). Get off at Harmoni - the nearest stop to the National Archives Building.
The building is set well back from the main street and has a huge yard in front of it – a remarkable thing since there are virtually no open spaces in Jakarta that are safe from the clutches of today’s insatiable property developer. Give them an inch and they arrive with the bulldozers. You know how it goes.
The Suhartoes being the apparent antagonists behind plans to demolish this remarkable 250 year old building. But fortunately they never got their way (thanks to the timely intervention of krismon 98).
Built for the “Guvnor”, a certain Reinier de Klerk, the building simply oozes old world charm and is packed full of interesting artifacts from the colonial era. The collection of weapons is, in particular, very cool.
Until 1925 the building was still used by the Dutch as a governmental department for mining. Its function then changed and it was used as the place to document land records. After independence, the building was used to record “national archives” until 1992.
Aside from avoiding the destructive intents of property developers, the building also had a close shave during the devastating May 1998 riots when uncontrollable mobs went on an orgy of arson and violence, targeting the Chinese especially.
The bank next door was burnt down and the bank’s staff were given refuge in the National Archives Building. The mobs then tried to get in – presumably to either rape the bank’s female staff or burn down the building - but they met stern resistance from courageous workers who weren’t gonna let their restoration efforts go up in smoke.
These restoration efforts, which were funded by donors and sponsors, mean that the National Archives Building is now in really good shape. And let’s hope it remains that way!
National Archives Building
Jl. Gajah Mada No. 111
Telp : (021) 6347744
Tuesday – Sunday : 09 am – 5 pm
Monday / Public Holiday : Closed
Entrance Fee : FREE OF CHARGE