Cultural Heritage of the Moluccas

The Project "Sharing Cultural Memory"

Museum Siwalima, Ambon
siwalima museum ambon
Museum of Ethnology, Vienna
ethnographic museum vienna

"Sharing cultural memory" is a cooperation-project of the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna and the Museum Siwalima on Ambon. Objectives are indexing and research on the conjoint heritage of ethnographic objects of the Moluccas, the publication of the outcomes of this research, and therewith to deepen the cultural relations of Austria and Indonesia.

The Museum of Ethnology in Vienna holds a remarkable collection of approx. 1.200 ethnographic objects, documenting the multifaceted culture and history of the Moluccas ("Spice Islands"). This Austrian "Moluccas-collection" is an important complement to the existence of (cultural/historic) material artifacts preserved on the Moluccas itself, in particular by the Museum Siwalima on Ambon. In both museums exist gaps of specific types of objects, but these missing artifacts can be found in the other museums inventory respectively. Hence the two museums have started to index and research on the conjoint heritage of ethnographic objects. The outcomes of this research shall be opened to the public.

One type of objects which are well represented in Vienna but virtual not existent on the Moluccas are historic pieces of basketwork. Under tropical climatic conditions most objects made of organic material (like wristbands made of plaited leaves) simply decomposed and could not be preserved for centuries.

Thanks to the collecting activities of some important personalities (at the end of the 19th Century), a series of such material artifacts could be conserved in the Austrian Museum of Ethnology. The collection of Franz Ferdinand von Österreich-Este is of great importance in this context, and at the same time it is a document of the historic relations between Austria and Indonesia. The "Moluccas-collection" of Franz Ferdinand von Österreich-Este was a gift by the then Dutch governor on Ambon (Baron van Hoëvell) to Franz Ferdinand.

In addition to the research work and the exchange of knowledge concerning the cultural heritage of the Moluccas, it was possible to study and compare the work methods in the respective other museum by reciprocal exchange of museum's staff. At last (March 2009) three project collaborators from Vienna hold several seminars and workshops in the Museum Siwalima on Ambon, amongst others about the topics "State-of-Art preservation of textiles", "Design and organisation of collection storages" and "Usage of database for the efficient administration of museum's collections". Furthermore this website with the Virtual Museum could be implemented.

In the near future the publication of a concerted collection-catalog about the "Masterpieces" of both museums is projected, and furthermore a consolidated Exhibition (subject to funding).

The cooperation-project "Sharing cultural memory" was kindly supported by the following institutions:

Austrian Embassy Jakarta
The Austrian Foreign Ministry
Indonesian Embassy Vienna

Both museums want to express their gratitude for this kind support at this point.