In its heydays, the twin islands of Bangka-Belitung were once the hub of a thriving tin mining industry. In Pangkalpinang, capital of Bangka-Belitung, remnants of this early industrial era are well preserved and showcased to all curious eyes at the Tin Museum of Indonesia.
Located on jalan Ahmad Yani.No 179, Pangkalpinang on Bangka Island, the museum occupies the building what was once the house of the Head of Administration of Bangka Tin Mining or Hoofd Administrateur Banka Tin Winning (BTW) during the Dutch colonial era. Established in 1958 and officiated in 1997, the museum is the only Tin Museum in Indonesia and Asia which today is under the management of the Indonesian state enterprise PT.Tambang Timah.
Bangka and Tin have always been inseparable, since the name Bangka itself originates from Wangka which means tin in the local language.
The history of the tin mining industry in Bangka dates back to as far as the 17th century when the island was still ruled by the Palembang Sultanate. The Dutch then took over the mining industry in Bangka as well as the nearby Belitung Island when they arrived here around 1858. Remnants of the Dutch colonial era still decorate many parts of Pangkalpinang, including the building that houses the Tin Museum of Indonesia. When Indonesia gained her Independence, mining industries were nationalized with the establishment of the tin smelting project at Mentok, Central Bangka in 1962.
Within the Museum, visitors are presented with various collections related to the tin mining industry, including the most traditional. Here you can find a traditional bailer that was used in the 1700’s to retrieve water and tin ores and a unique tool called belincong that was used to mine the tin.
From the Dutch colonial era, the museum showcases tin bar casts and tin bar stamps belonging to the Mijnbow Maatschappij Biliton (GMB) –the brand of the tin bars. There are also several vintage pictures depicting the long history of Dutch tin mining on Bangka and Belitung.
In the museum, visitors are also presented with different types of tin and other geological rocks which are also mined such as quartz crystals. As the icon of the tin mining industry, a locomotive that was once used to pull tin carts is placed in the courtyard of the museum.
Aside from its collection, the building itself is a heritage which played an important part in the history of Indonesia. Several diplomatic negotiations have taken place here between Indonesian leaders, Dutch representatives and the United Nation Commission for Indonesia (UNCI) which led to the historical Roem-Royen declaration on 7th May 1949, and ultimately Dutch recognition of Indonesia as a sovereign state in December 1949.