As I mentioned in one of my very first posts, when I arrived in Banda Neira I had the idea to organize a workshop with the local history students to revamp the local museum, the Rumah Budaya. This museum houses the private collection of Des Alwi, who was born in Banda and was adopted by the nationalist Mohammad Hatta during his exile in Banda Neira. Des Alwi became an important diplomat for Indonesia, but never forget his place of origin. He used his extensive network to rescue Banda from decay, and he turned the house in which he was born into a museum. It is owned by his children and grandchildren, one of which, Mita Alwi, helped with the reorganization.
At the moment this is the only place in Banda Islands archipelago were there is an attempt to tell the entire rich history of Banda to tourists. It is therefore regrettable that the exhibition did not show any chronological or thematic organization. In return for all the kindness that the Bandanese people have shown me during the last few months, I wanted to help and reorganize the collection into a story that will be a little more easier to understand for visitors who are not guided by a tour guide.
Together with the history teacher, we already made a thematic sketch at the start of June, but due to all the festivities and my visa problems we had not been able to execute our ideas. As I will be leaving Banda Neira in a month, I asked the students when they would have time during this month to help and move all the objects in the museum. The answer was: this weekend, because there will be a lot of other activities that will prevent them during any other week. So, in two days, I drew maps of the rooms, categorized the objects per theme, and then drew a plan for a new exhibit.
The first day, 24 (!) students came to the museum to help. With the help of colored post-its and the floor plans, all the furniture and objects were moved within a day. The next day a smaller group of 10 selected students returned to help; cleaning the museum, hanging the last paintings and moving the last pieces. I am super excited about the result, however, I was a little anxious whether the efforts of the last week would be appreciated. As it is, several people have approached me to say that they really like the new set-up, as it makes it easier to tell the story of Banda when they tour tourists through the museum. Therefore, mission accomplished!
However, there is still plenty of work to be done. The building is in a pretty bad condition, with parts of the ceiling already collapsing. Besides that, there is a severe lack of lighting, it needs a few fans in order for tourists not to roast during their visit, and all the labels should be renewed. One remaining task is to work with the local students to write a short paragraph to introduce the theme of the room, which will be translated in English and Dutch. Besides that, I will keep my ears peeled for any funds that might be able to rescue this important information center on Banda Neira.
While writing this, I have moved from Banda Neira to Banda Besar, the largest island of the archipelago. So next week more about this island and its rich history!
PS: due to a bad internet connection on Banda Besar, this blog is a few days later than planned.