Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Reviving the Deli Planters!


Industrial Heritage of Indonesia Series #1

Reviving the Deli Planters!

Indonesian Plantation Museum (Museum Perkebunan Indonesia-Musperin)

An exemplary public-private partnership in heritage conservation of Indonesia. Two plantation museums in 5 years period is a relatively huge achievement for the industrial heritage of Indonesia. This is only possible with the ideal combination of financial support of the plantation state company, in this case, PTPN II, museum professional executive the board led by Sri Hartini, and active involvement of community organizations like Sumatra Heritage Trust.

Soedjai Kartasasmita, the leading figure of plantation industry of Indonesia has taken an initiative to establish a museum to convey history of plantation of the country to the young generation. He was and is still supported by the energetic museum director, Sri Hartini, to fulfill the dream.

The museum was formally opened on 10 December 2016 at a complex of historical buildings in Medan, North Sumatra (built-in 1917). The buildings belong to the AVROS, the Dutch abbreviation for the Association of Rubber Planters in the East Coast of Sumatra. This Association was established by plantation investors such as Horisson and Crosfield and Goodyear Rubber Company. In the end, this was not only an association for the rubber planters, but also oil palm, tobacco, and other commodities planters.

In front of the building, the visitors will see the locomotive of Ducro & Brauns made in the Netherlands that was in operation until 1996, a lorry to transport oil palm made in Germany that was in operation until 2015, and an airplane to spray pesticide made in America that was in operation until 2007.

In 2021, Musperin is busy preparing the second museum at Badan Kerja Sama Perusahaan Perkebunan Sumatera (BKS-PPS) Building, also in Medan. This institution is the continuation of AVROS. Now, this association consists of 162 plantation companies in Sumatra from all sorts of backgrounds (domestic, international, government, private sector).

The BKS-PPS Building has a strategic location at the corner of the business and historical district Kesawan. The green dome with its clock at the highest point is in the renovation process so the general public would be able to climb to this point and the floor will function as a working space as well. Those who will enjoy the busy city center could sit at a café at the same level as the museum display.

A special element from this second museum, on the third floor there is a room that used to be called the Dactyloscopy Bureau (dactyloscopy is a method of using fingerprints for identification). Here hundred thousand fingerprints of plantation workers from Java and China are well kept.  These fingerprints are witnesses of the heyday of the plantation industry not only on the East Coast of Sumatra but also in the Dutch Indies and Indonesia. It is worth consideration to registering these important fingerprints in the list of Memory of the World. For that purpose, Musperin has a digitalization program to record all the fingerprints.

Historical Snapshots Plantation Industry in Indonesia

Coffee came to the Dutch Indies in 1646 and in 1712 the first export to Amsterdam. In 1900 the new coffee variety Robusta from Congo was introduced and now the most common commodity from Indonesia.

Oil Palm was in the early 19th century only planted along with street shadow plants. In 1902 an oil palm processing machine was discovered in East Sumatra. In 1911 an oil palm plantation was opened by the French-Belgium company SOCFIN (Société Financiére des Caoutchoucs). In 1918 England opened an oil palm plantation in Malaya with Deli Dura seeds from Buitenzorg (the current Bogor).

Tea was produced in Malabar and Tanara, West Java, by Karel Albert Rudolf Bosscha, in 1686. The first tea factory outside Java was in Simangulun, North Sumatra, opened in 1910. Now the famous tea from Sumatra is Kayu Aro Tea from Jambi.

Cacao was already planted in Indonesia since 1560 but widely exploited in Central Java around 1880.

Tobacco was exploited in Sumatra by Jacobus Nienhuys and in 1869 Deli Maatschappij (Deli Enterprise) was established following the economic booming of tobacco exports from the East Coast of Sumatra. After the Independence, Soekarno represented Indonesia and Conrad Adenhaver represented Germany, opened the tobacco auction center in Bremen, Germany, called Tabak Bõrse. Deli Sumatra Tobacco was famous in the world due to this place.

Other types of tobacco were from Jember, East Java, called Besuki Na Oogst (BNO), and from Klaten. Both are called Javanese Tobacco, and from Deli called Sumatran Tobacco.

(Resource: BKS-PPS and Musperin, pictures: Hasti Tarekat, Harditaher Musperin)

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