A review of the National Archives of the Republic of Indonesia (Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia, ANRI).
The National Archives of the Republic of Indonesia (Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia, ANRI) is located on Jl. Ampera Raya in the Kemang area of South Jakarta. I was there for archival research between February and May 2013 for my dissertation project on various transnational connections—including diplomacy, migration, and interaction among communist movements—between China and Indonesia from 1945 to 1967.
ANRI’s collection is voluminous and stretches back to the seventeenth century. For the post-colonial period, however, due to the mass violence in 1965-1966 and state censorship under the authoritarian rule of Suharto, the materials are much less rich and coherent compared to those of the colonial era. Given the prolonged process to apply for a research visa and the slow pace of work in the archives (as described in detail below), researchers facing time pressure will probably have to make a choice about whether visiting ANRI is worth the effort. Despite their scattered nature, the ANRI materials shed new light on narratives about and experiences of the newborn Republic of Indonesia.
All non-citizen researchers must apply for a research visa in order to work at ANRI. I started my application in October 2012 and received the visa stamp in January 2013. The American Institute for Indonesian Studies (AIFIS) provides a very detailed guide to applying for a research visa. (http://aifis.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/RESEARCH-PROCEDURES-FOR-FOREIGN-UNIVERSTY.pdf)
I would recommend compiling your application package very early, taking steps such as contacting your local sponsor and securing an official invitation letter. After having collected all the requested materials, you will need to mail the complete application to the closest Indonesian Embassy or Consulate to obtain a letter of recommendation. The materials will be returned to you and then need to be sent directly to Kementerian Riset dan Teknologi (RISTEK) in Jakarta. RISTEK reviews all applications at a monthly meeting. Applicants whose research proposals seem “questionable”—in other words, challenging the government or causing potential harm to social stability—will be interviewed via Skype and might be denied access. You might want to reframe your project so as to avoid being seen as politically sensitive (e.g., rephrase a study on ethnic conflict as one on cultural diversity). Once approved, the immigration office will send you an electronic copy of the entry permit, with which you can obtain a visa stamp at an Indonesian Embassy or Consulate of your choice.
After arriving in Jakarta, you will need to register at various governmental offices (RISTEK, immigration, police, etc.) before proceeding to ANRI. A courier service seems to be available, although I didn’t use it myself. Bringing many copies of your application materials and ID photos (be mindful that RISTEK has its own particular requirement for photos) can save lots of time. This process took me around one week (five working days).
ANRI has built an online, keyword-searchable database that can be accessed through the desktops in the reading room. But the system seemed to be incomplete, at least during my visit. The best way to thoroughly assess the collection is to check the hard copy catalogue volumes at the reference desk. The staff working there are friendly and knowledgeable; I would recommend consulting them before browsing the catalogue.
A researcher can request up to five items per day by submitting hand-written slips. The time it takes for the requested item to be delivered is unpredictable, ranging from a few hours to two days. I would recommend submitting your slips first thing in the morning and bringing something else to work on while waiting. Usually a wave of requested documents will arrive around 1 or 2 p.m. For post-colonial period documents, duplication is limited to less than 20% of the whole file. With regard to earlier materials, the rule is much stricter for preservation purposes. Cameras are prohibited in the reading room.
As in most governmental offices in Indonesia, things slow down after 3 p.m. from Monday to Thursday and after the Friday prayer at noon.
Documents related to the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia in the post-World War II era can be found mostly in the Inventaris Arsip Kementerian Dalam Negeri 1945-1949, Inventaris Arsip Kepolisian Negara RI 1947-1949, Inventaris Arsip Kementrian Pertahanan RI, and Daftar Arsip Djogdja Documenten 1945-1949; materials pertaining to Indonesian diplomacy, including relations with the People’s Republic of China, can be found in the Inventaris Arsip Kabinet Presiden RI 1950-1959 and Inventaris Arsip Sekretariat Negara Kabinet Perdana Menteri Tahun 1950-1959. The citizenship status of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia and their political and social activities were relatively well documented. However, materials on Indonesia-China relations are sparse compared to the collection at the Chinese Foreign Ministry Archives in Beijing before these were severely limited in 2013. I was informed by friends working in ANRI that archives from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry (Kementerian Luar Negeri, or KEMLU) are actually deposited there but not yet organized and catalogued. They will not be open to the public in the near future.
Accommodations: In light of Jakarta’s notorious traffic, I would highly recommend that anyone planning an extensive period of research stay near the Archives. There are at least two “kos” or guesthouse options within a five-minute walk of ANRI. Both places are flexible with lease periods. The one I chose, Kemang Corner, is owned by a sweet and warm family.
Lunch: Food options are plentiful since the Kemang area is famous for fancy coffee shops, restaurants, and shopping malls. Lunch break is usually a good time to socialize with ANRI staff and other researchers. Most staff working at ANRI are generous, kind, and very supportive professionally and emotionally.
Dress Code: As in most formal settings in Indonesia, long pants or skirts with hemlines below the knees and sleeved shirts are expected. The reading room is overly air-conditioned, so be sure to bring a jacket with you.
Medical Care: There is a reliable hospital a five-minute drive from ANRI.
Oiyan Liu and Eric Tagliacozzo, “The National Archives (Jakarta) and the Writing of Transnational Histories of Indonesia,” Itinerario, Volume 32, Issue 1 (March 2008), pp. 81-94.
Department of History
Image: Photograph by author.