The Goedang Ransom Museum located in West Sumatra presents a snapshot of an important period in the history of a small town which would later be known as Sawahlunto. The public kitchen—which is now the museum—played an important role in a period that had a significant impact on the future of Sawahlunto. The images, artifacts, and building of the museum capture the life once lived by a community which developed under colonial rule.
The Goedang Ransoem Museum was established in 1918 under the Dutch colonial government but was not inaugurated until 17 December 2005 by the Indonesian government. Fortunately, despite a few issues, the museum has been well taken care of throughout the years.
The picture gallery in the museum shows historical photographs, such as of WH de Greeve, a Dutch geologist who discovered coal in Sawahlunto in 1868. He claimed that there were over 200 million metric tons of ‘black pearls’, the term for coal, in Sawahlunto. The Dutch invested 5.5 million guilders to build housings for workers and the Sawahlunto Emma Haven (Teluk Bayur) train track for the Ombilin coal mine enterprise, as well as for traditional and modern coal mine equipment. Other photos include the Ombilin coal mine map, the uniforms of foremen and the coal miners, as well as of community leaders of the era.
Visitors can particularly see photos of coal mine laborers at work using dynamite and laborers which were brought from all over the provinces and forced to work at the coal mine with their feet chained, popularly known as “Orang Rantai” .
The main building of the museum holds a collection of cooking utilities which was once used to cook food for coal mine workers and Sawahlunto residents. Large-sized woks used to boil water, cook rice and vegetables are still in good condition. Old giant crocks made of iron and nickle with a diameter of 132 and 62 cm in length are also stored in this building. Visitors can see the uniform used by the cook and examples of the food cooked for the coal miners from a glass case.
People used to cook in this building by using the steam produced by two stoves at the back of the main kitchen, which was provided by underground gas pipes using compressors. The main stove which function to supply steam is located in the back area of the main kitchen. This old coal stove is as tall as a tower. A reserved stove and a tank have also been kept in good condition. The roof top of the main building of the museum is made of zinc and a concrete chimney can be viewed from a far.
Besides the main kitchen and the stoves, there is an area for storing vegetables, dried spices, meat, and also an ice factory. This ice factory is said to be one of the oldest ice factory in Sumatra.
Beside the front entrance of the building, visitors can see the collection of the trains used to transport coal. On the right side of the building there are audio visuals of Sawahlunto’s coal mine history. The area is air conditioned and has comfortable seats for visitors. Next to this area is a hall way with the photo panels showcasing the history of the public kitchen and the building.
The museum also showcases historical artifacts such as a wooden foot rice pounder. People pound unhulled paddy, spice, and traditional medicine only by using their feet and weight to move the pestle, while the mortar is attached to a large wood.
During the struggle for independence in 1945 and on to 1950 the Goedang Ransoem Museum was used to cook food for Indonesian soldiers. In 1950 to 1960 the museum was used as the office of the Ombilin coal mine enterprise. From 1960 to 1970, the building became the Ombilin Junior High School and it afterwards became a residence for the Ombilin workers until 1980.
What remains as a strong reminder of Sawahlunto’s colonial history is the unnamed and numbered tomb stones of workers who had died while working at the mine, which are found at the back of the museum building. These workers are part of what would later bring about Sawahlunto’s present rich cultural diversity and establish the town’s unique place in the history of West Sumatra.
The Goedang Ransoem Museum is in Jl. Abdurrahman Hakim, Lembah Segar, West Sumatra 27422, Indonesia
The museum is 94 km or about a two-hour drive from Kota Padang
Ticket price is Rp4,000 for adults and Rp2,000 for children.
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