The existence of the National Museum begins with the establishment of a set of named Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, founded by the Dutch Government on 24 April 1778. At that time in central European intellectual revolution (the Age of Enlightenment), which is where people begin to develop scientific thinking and science. In 1752 in Haarlem, the Netherlands stood De Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (Dutch Scientific Society). This encourages the Dutch in Batavia (Indonesia) to establish a similar organization.
Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen (BG) is an independent institution established for the purpose of advancing penetitian in the field of arts and sciences, especially in the areas of biological sciences, physics, archeology, literature, ethnology and history, also publish research hash. This institution has the slogan "Ten Nutte van het Algemeen" (To the Public Interest).
One of the founders of this institution, namely JCM Radermacher, donated a house he owns in Jalan Kalibesar, a Jakarta-trade zone in the City. Except that he also donated a number of collections of cultural objects and books are very useful, donations Radermacher which is the embryo of the founding of museums and libraries.
During the period of British rule in Java (1811-1816), Lieutenant Governor Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles became director of this association. Because homes in Kalibesar is full with a collection of the Raffles ordered the construction of a new building for use as a museum and meeting rooms for the Literary Society (formerly called the building "Societeit de Harmonie"). Now in this place stood the State Secretariat building complex, near the presidential palace.
The number of collections belonging to the BG continues neningkat in Jalan Majapahit museum can no longer accommodate his collection. In 1862, Dutch East Indies government decided to build a new museum building in a location that is now, namely Jalan Merdeka Barat No. 12 (also called Koningsplein West ). The land covers an area that later on it was built buildings Rechst Hogeschool or "College of the Law" (never used for Kenpetai headquarters during the Japanese occupation, and now the Ministry of Defence and Security).This new museum building opened to the public in 1868.
The museum is very well known among the Indonesian people, especially residents of Jakarta. They called it "Elephant Building" or "Elephant Museum" because the front page of the museum there is a bronze elephant statue gift from King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) from Thailand who visited the museum in 1871. Sometimes also called "Building Arca" because in the building was and still is stored various types and forms of statues from different periods.
In 1923 this association received the title of "Royal" for his services in the field of scientific and government so that the full project into the Royal Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen. On January 26, 1950, the Royal Genootschap van Kunsten en Bataviaasch Wetenschappen changed its name to the Institute of Culture of Indonesia. These changes are adjusted to the conditions at that time, as reflected in his new motto: "to promote cultural sciences are useful to increase knowledge about the islands of Indonesia and surrounding countries."
Given the importance of this museum for the people of Indonesia, on 17 September 1962 the Cultural Institute of Indonesia, presented the museum management to the Indonesian government, which later became the Central Museum. Finally, based on the Decree of the Minister of Education and Culture, No.092 / 0 / 1979 dated 28 May 1979, the Museum Center upgraded to the National Museum.
Now the National Museum of shelter under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The National Museum has a vision that refers to the vision of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of "The realization of the National Museum as a center of culture and tourism information are capable of the intellectual life of the nation, increases the pride of civilization and national culture, and to strengthen unity and friendship among nations".
National Museum as an institution of cultural heritage studies and cultural educational information center and recreation, has an obligation to save and preserve objects of cultural heritage of Indonesia. Until now totaling 141,899-managed collection of objects, consisting of 7 types of collections of prehistoric, archaeological, ceramics, numismtik-heraldic, history, ethnography and geography.
Rescue and preservation of this culture is essentially intended for the public interest, informed through exhibitions and publishing catalogs, brochures, audio visual website as well. The goal is that people know and participate in the preservation of national heritage.
Regarding the exhibition, the exhibition arrangement at the old building (Unit A) based on the types of collections, whether based on science, materials, and regionalism. As exhibition space Prehistory, Bronze Room, Living Textiles, Room Ethnography Sumatra region, and others.While the arrangement of the exhibition in the new building (Unit B or Arca Building) is no longer based on the type collection but rather lead to a theme based on aspects of human culture which is positioned as actors in the neighborhood.The theme of the exhibition, entitled "Cultural Diversity in Unity" is made up of several subtema among others  Humans and the Environment,  Science, Technology and Economics,  Social Organization and Settlement Patterns, and  Khasanah (Gold) and Ceramics.
Public service is an activity that focuses on efforts to increase appreciation of cultural heritage and delivery of information collection National Museum of Indonesia to the general public, especially among students and college students. This activity is carried out which include pilotage services (guiding) or guidance (counseling) to visitors, either to the special guests (guest country, researchers), as well as to general visitors (students, university students and ordinary people). Field Guidance and publications will help in that regard, if necessary, will be recommended or supported by the curator-curator who manages the collection or caring for collections.