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Open GLAM in Indonesia: the Current Situation of Indonesian Digital Cultural Heritage

Around 1844, the Dutch Government introduced the intellectual property protection laws for the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia. The Trademark law, Patent law, and Copyright law were enacted in the following years. Although these laws were enacted over a 100 years ago, the general public in Indonesia still doesn’t have basic knowledge of those laws, despite interacting with some aspect of copyright law in their daily lives, when they go to school or use the Internet.

In 2018, Creative Commons Indonesia conducted a survey on copyright and Creative Commons license, to get more insights from Indonesians perspective. Only 18,9% of the respondents have some knowledge of Indonesian Copyright law. Most respondents didn’t know about Creative Commons prior to taking the survey. We also got a deeper understanding of the awareness about the CC licenses and copyright work in Indonesia.

Indonesia is known as a communal society, and we have a broad set of communal knowledge that is regarded as Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions (Traditional Knowledge-TCE). There’s a lot of knowledge that falls under these criteria. However, our current Copyright law only provides general information about Traditional Knowledge-TCE. An effort to enact Traditional Knowledge-TCE law is underway and still under the discussion of the People’s Representative Council. We have a better understanding of communal knowledge because it is more part of our culture than copyright notions.

GLAM in Indonesia

GLAM is an unknown abbreviation for Indonesians. Libraries and museums are the most well-known institutions, unlike galleries and archives. Per 11 September 2020, Indonesia has a total of 96,935 libraries; of which 3,798 are general libraries, 1,708 are special libraries, 1,542 are university libraries, and the vast majority, 89,887 are school libraries. These libraries are scattered around Indonesia, but sadly they are based mostly in Western and Central Indonesia, especially in Java island, which is the most influential geographical area in terms of politics and education.

The number of libraries in Indonesia per 11 September 2020. Biyanto Rebin (CC-BY 4.0.)Source: National Library of Indonesia.

According to the 2019 edition of the Cultural Statistics book by the Ministry of Culture and Education (MCE) of Indonesia, the government records both the tangible culture (cultural heritage and museums) and intangible culture (art; history; beliefs and traditions). In 2018 Indonesia had 435 museums; 42 were general museums, the rest (393) were special museums. The government owns and manages 288 museums, while 147 are owned by private entities. Museums in Indonesia normally focus on three fields: research, education, and leisure. But most museums are focused on leisure and there are not a lot of museums doing research.

Their collections are mostly unavailable online. If you want to know more about the collections that museums steward, you need to visit the museum in person. The combination of lack of awareness about copyright and open licenses, and the traditional views that some have of the museums as being mainly a leisure place, has affected the abilities of the Open GLAM effort to grow.

The government and some government institutions have been pushing for open licensing in recent years. The government of Indonesia has actively joined the international open community. For example, now all the government data information is available on the website Open Government ( They are also part of OER-Hub, so they need to publish their educational materials under Creative Commons licenses.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that awareness of Creative Commons and copyright is strong in the sector, particularly within government institutions. An important part of the people working in these collaborations, they are basically just following instructions as part of the commitment to these efforts, but they are not necessarily aware of the meaning of the Creative Commons symbols or licenses. Only some of the staff working in these initiatives care about copyright and generally understand how the Creative Commons licenses work. This is important because it means that we have less “open champions” among the government institutions (including museums and libraries), despite having many laws that promote open data.

Study Case: Open Cultural Data in Indonesia

One of the efforts by the Government of Indonesia to provide the open cultural data is the map of intangible culture (PD-Gov Indonesia)

In June 2020, I got a chance to discuss and talk with Hilmar Farid, the Director-General of Culture, Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture, about the open cultural data in Indonesia. In the last few years, the Directorate General of Culture has been continuously focused on increasing their internal knowledge management. This government effort is based on several laws, including the Cultural Advancement law (number 05 of 2017) about Integrated Cultural Data Collection System, and Indonesia’s One Data Presidential Regulation (number 30 of 2019), about supporting data openness and transparency for data-based development policy planning. The discussion was mesmerizing. Hilmar mentioned and raised several issues, including the government effort of opening the cultural data in Indonesia. The data are scattered around various institutions including private entities; the data are unorganized; some data cannot be accessible, and the bureaucracy to access some of that data is complicated. The lack of understanding or knowledge of copyright is one of the most problematic issues. This lack of understanding affects the trust of these government institutions because they are afraid of opening their collection to the public. They are afraid of copyright infringement, even when there might not be any copyright on the data, to begin with. A lot of institutions, including government institutions, are very protective and only want to use their data for internal purposes. Even data transactions among government institutions are bilateral and limited.

The Directorate General of Culture has been making efforts to re-educate and communicate about these problems to the institutions under their jurisdiction. This is a long way to go, but the Directorate has an optimistic perspective. Their point of view is that if the government is proactively supporting open culture, Indonesia can be a key leader in the field of open data.

The Directorate General of Culture is also working in collaboration with other institutions that can help them bring awareness on the importance of openness for the GLAM sector. Retas Budaya (loosely translated as “Hack Your Culture”) is one of those efforts to increase the visibility and awareness of Open GLAM in Indonesia. The project is a collaboration between Wikimedia Indonesia, the Goethe-Institut Indonesien, and the Directorate General of Culture, as well as other institutions. These institutions have teamed up to educate and promote open cultural data to the public and GLAM institutions. The goal is to make the participants and the public understand how open cultural data can be beneficial for society. The event brings a new perspective on open cultural data by engaging the cultural conversation and improving the collaboration among Indonesians and cultural heritage institutions.

The Future of Open GLAM in Indonesia

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought some opportunities for the future of Open GLAM in Indonesia. A lot of the institutions in Indonesia have started the path to provide virtual access and tours of their collections. Open access and digitization are now a relevant topic in the current situation of social distancing measures and preventive quarantines. The museums, many of them under Directorate General of Culture, provide free virtual tours by showing their collection and providing data access since most of them are closed down during the pandemic.

Looking into the future, we need to build more training and capacity so GLAM institutions in Indonesia can fully participate in Open GLAM and benefit from opening their collections. The Directorate General of Culture plays a key role in this endeavour, alongside with Wikimedia Indonesia, Creative Commons Indonesia and Goethe-Institut Indonesien.


About this story

This story was written thanks to an open call funded by Creative Commons Open GLAM Platform. This is part of a series of articles that will be published in the Open GLAM Medium publication, that have been supported with the goal of showcasing stories around the world on Open GLAM. Find out more here.



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