The Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java – the biggest Buddhist temple in the world. (Antara Photo/Andreas Fitri Atmoko)

Another Victim of the Pandemic: Cultural Heritage Sites


MAY 25, 2020

Jakarta. Interdisciplinary cooperation will be needed to take care of Indonesia's cultural heritage sites and keep them sustainable during the coronavirus pandemic, the Education and Culture Ministry has said.

According to Unesco, 89 percent of countries have partially or fully closed their cultural heritage sites during the pandemic, causing millions of dollars in revenue losses for cultural institutions and museums.


"We have to work together with activists and professionals from all disciplines to protect these cultural heritage sites during the pandemic. Historians and archaeologists can't do it on their own," Restu Gunawan, the ministry's director for cultural development, said on Monday.

One thing the sites' managements have been doing rather well is using digital platforms to keep the sites "open" and accessible to the public, Restu said.

"We have 175 million internet users in Indonesia. It's a potentially huge market for cultural heritage sites and museums," he said in a teleconference.

The managements have also been organizing a series of promotional activities, including an online drawing competition for children as part of Unesco's global social media campaign #ShareOurHeritage and #ShareCulture. 

"We've also held online seminars about our cultural heritage sites. They've enabled us to build a network with other cultural heritage activists around the world," Restu said.

Museums and historic sites have also been offering 360-degree virtual tours during the pandemic, which seem to be quite popular as long as they're complemented with strong stories, he said. 

"We need to do more training for our virtual tour guides," he said.

Pahadi, an archaeologist from the East Java Cultural Heritage Preservation Center (BPCB Jatim), said the government should not only focus on the tourism and economic aspects of cultural heritage sites but instead design a comprehensive program to protect and preserve them. 

"So far, we've only focused on the tourism and economic aspects. The total number of visitors is the only success indicator. We haven't even provided enough information about the sites. This pandemic has actually taught us that what the public wants is more comprehensive information about the sites and museums," Pahadi said.

Monetizing Digital Platforms 

To keep cultural heritage sites and museums sustainable, the government must find a way to start monetizing them through digital platforms, Restu said.

"We plan to create a grand design to monetize these sites and museums through digital platforms. They need to make money. It's crucial for their sustainability after the pandemic," he said.

Yadi Mulyadi, an archaeologist at Hasanuddin University in Makassar, said the government must also take care of the communities around cultural heritage sites.

"Closing down these sites has had a domino effect on the local economy. The government could help by providing local communities with capital to set up online shops where they can sell souvenirs and other products," Yadi said.