By Farah Wardani

29 September 2023 - 19:07

A screenshot of a video conference with four participants, with Farah Wardani on the top left, Scott Anthony on the top right, Dr. Tim Boon on the bottom left, and Zamrud Setyanegara on the bottom left.

Despite plenty of shared historical connections, museums and cultural research in the UK and Indonesia rarely get connected. Two long-time colleagues set out to fix that, starting with a Research Seminar series and a Creative Lab.

The concept of ReConnect/ReCollect is quite simple: To facilitate encounters and expertise sharing between museum professionals and culture researchers from Indonesia and the UK based on the network that Scott and I have developed.

The two of us are long-time colleagues from our time working in Singapore. We shared a mutual interest in the world of museums and Public History. We talked about how UK and Indonesian museums rarely get connected, whether in terms of collection, curatorial, or research, although all can be done online with current digital platforms.

That was how the idea of ReConnect/ReCollect started. After many discussions, we came up with a programme in two phases: three online sessions of the Research Seminar series on 14th, 20th, and 21st of March 2023 and The Creative Lab.

ReConnect/ReCollect Research Seminar series

Session 1 featured practitioners and researchers from Indonesia: Sugi Lanus (Museum Pusaka Lontar Bali), Nusi Lisabilla (Museum Nasional Indonesia), and Alexander Supartono (Napier University). They shared their research methods and practices informing new directions in professional museum practice in Indonesia. The session was moderated by Kathleen Walker-Weikle from SMG.

Session 2 featured three speakers from Science Museum Group (SMG): Charlotte Connelly, Rupert Cole, and Alice Naylor. They spoke about contemporary approaches in research and curatorial strategies on the history of science and historical objects. I moderated this session.

Session 3 presented explored current trends of collection management, interpretation, and audiences for Southeast Asian heritage and material culture in Indonesia and the UK. It featured Nick Barnard from Victoria and Albert Museum, Alexandra Green from British Museum, Sadiah Boonstra from Museum dan Cagar Budaya Indonesia, and Adrian Plau and Yoshika Kobayashi from Wellcome Trust Collection. It was moderated by Melinda Susanto of Leiden University.

All sessions were attended by approximately 50-70 pre-registered participants from Indonesia and the UK. They raised interesting discussions on the topics above, highlighting crucial issues such as the importance of more research exchanges between UK and Indonesian museums, restitutions, and creating public access to culture and heritage collections between the two countries. 

ReConnect/ReCollect Creative Lab

The Creative Lab of ReConnect/ReCollect explored the new narratives enabled by the digital life of collections, especially its potential to surface hidden connections between objects, sounds, and places across Indonesia’s and UK’s museums.

Guided by Stefania Zardini Lacedelli (SMG), Simon Popple (University of Leeds), and Fabiana Fazzi (Ca’ Foscari University), a group of Indonesian artists experimented with YARN, a digital storytelling platform for community stories, and izi.TRAVEL, a geolocation app which supports the creation of sound walks. The Indonesian participating artists were Cut & Rescue, Blanco Blanc Atelier, Gesyada Siregar, Bob Edrian, Lintang Raditya, Syaura Qotrunadha, Rianti Gautama, M Tamrin, Aliansyah Caniago, and Nurulfitri Wisetyaningsih.

The Creative Lab sessions created two workgroups of the participating artists based on their storytelling themes: one on the idea of ‘absence’ (of representation of Indonesian culture in global collections), the other on the idea of ‘weaponry’.

The discussions raised plenty of creative dialogue between facilitators and participating artists, especially on how artists can use the platforms for their work and develop new ways of research on cultural heritage and public history.

A screenshot of Farah Wardani and Zamrud Setyanegara’s presentation. The screen shows six ancient archaeological artifacts, noted as the collection of Indonesia’s National Museum, with the faces of the two presenters as thumbnails on the right side.
A screenshot of Dr. Tim Boon’s presentation. The screen shows an image of a library, another image of a white woman, and another image of two computer screens. Text says “Three foundations for our research: Science Museum Research Centre, Masters and doctoral training, and E-journal”. Dr. Tim Boon is visible as a thumbnail on the right side.
A screenshot of Stefania Zardini’s presentation, titled “Museums of the Dolomites”. The screen shows thumbnails of 28 people holding up the sign of the project. Stefania Zardini is visible as a thumbnail on the right side.
A screenshot of Simon Popple’s presentation on YARN, with thumbnails of multiple YARN stories on screen. Simon Popple is visible as a thumbnail on the right side.

The start of a long-term expertise sharing

The post-event recordings of the Research Seminar Series and Creative Lab are published in Indonesiana.TV streaming platform and Budaya Saya YouTube channel.

The Creative Lab with selected participating artists from Indonesia also took place in YARN as part of SMG’s The Congruence Engine.We believe these outputs can be a good resource for everyone who cares about collection and museum development in Indonesia, the UK, and beyond.

We hope to continue to develop the discussions and collaborations that have started with this project in the future.