"Knowing Nusantara: Money that Made the Region" is an exhibition by Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery, Sasana Kijang. The exhibition start from 26 Ogos until 26 December 2014 explores the coins and banknotes that have circulated in the Malay Archipelago, telling a story that goes back 2,000 year.
I only had the opportunity to visit the exhibition on September 7, like always, not many people are visiting Sasana Kijang. when I was there for 4 hours, apart from me and a friend blogger, only a few families and half a dozen of the Open University students came to visit the museum. I do not see any foreign tourist coming like what we can see at Museum Negara Kuala Lumpur.
The exhibition is located on the 2nd Floor, next to The Numismatic Gallery section. When we entered the "Knowing Nusantara: Money that Made the Region" showroom, we are not sure which direction we must take, right or left? No signage that can guide us where are we supposed to start. However, when we realized the right side is about Japanese Invasion Money, we decide to start from the left.
The first section that we see is "The Tactile" section. In this section, you have the opportunity to hold different form of replicas currency displayed in a case; Mountain shaped tin ingot, Crocodile shaped tin ingot, beeswax, buffalo shaped cannon, cockerel shaped tin coin, Pitis money tree, shell backed tin ingot and tampang. In my opinion, there are many differences holding the real thing and a replica items. Most people don't bother to touch the replicas since they can take a peek and see for themself what is inside. Maybe Bank Negara want to replicate what is done by Bank of England Exhibition in 2012, where visitors get a rare opportunity lift a London bullion market bar weighing approximately 13kg of pure (99.95%) gold with a current value of over £400,000. Something that is clearly different from what they are trying to do.
After that, you can see a section about things that were used as money in Nusantara such as beads necklace, spices, beeswax and metal objects.
In the coin section, they're showing many old coins that had been used in the Nusantara. We can see old coins from China, Parsia, India, Thailand, Central Java, Sasanian, Sumatera, Banjarmasin, Melaka, Netherlands, Mexico, France, Denmark, Austria and Spain. Thanks to BNM for giving us the opportunity to see ourselves a remarkable collection of Nusantara coins that we have not see before.
We had a chance to see Pitis Kucing Brunei, The pitis was a currency of Brunei last issued in 1868 which circulated into the 20th century. We also can see a collection of Silver Cobs from Peru, Bolivia and Mexico in one place.
However, there are some fake coins displayed in the exhibition. Like this fake Mexican Pillar Dollar coin, there is no notice posted or written near the coin information telling public that it is a replica coin. This will give an impression to the public that the coin is real. They might have the same coin at home and think that their coin is real too. In my opinion, a numismatic Museum like Sasana Kijang should be a place to educate public about "real coin". Any fakes or replicas should have their proper signage to inform public that the coin is not real. This is just my personal opinion, I know there are many numismatic experts in Sasana Kijang who knew about this.
After the coin section, we will go into The Shipwreck Gallery. In this gallery, we can see a collections of coins that were taken from shipwrecks that were used in Nusantara, The Hollandia. Hollandia was a ship of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) which wrecked on Annet, Isles of Scilly on 13 July 1743 causing 276 fatalities. The wreck was discovered in 1971 by Rex Cowan.
The last section is the Paper Money section, showing some of the paper money used in this region. What I like the most in this section is the collection of Sarawak notes. You also have the opportunity to stepped on Japanese Banana currency on the floor. I don't know what kind of message that BNM want to give the public about stepping on the old banana notes but for me that is a way to vent your anger to the Japanese colonialism?
Here is a short video about Knowing Nusantara: Money that Made the Region exhibition.
In my opinion, this exhibition is very good and I would recommend to my numismatic friends to visit the exhibition. I heard rumours that the coins and paper money in the exhibition is a collection of William Barret, I don't know if that is true since no information about who own that collection in the exhibition. I hope in the future, Bank Negara Malaysia will make more exhibition about numismatic and they update their current exhibition at the Numismatic Gallery.