The Batavian Society of the Arts and Sciences was established on this site in 1778, by U.M.C. Rademacher under the auspices of the Batavia Association of Arts and Sciences, it offers historical, prehistorically, archaeological and ethnographic aspects of Indonesia through its extensive collection of artifacts and relics which date as far back as to the Stone Age. It has one of the most complete collections of bronzes and ceramics dating back to the Han, Tang and Ming Dynasties. The Museum has one of the finest numismatic collections in the world, including cloth and money, which was used on several islands until recently. The religious art section is filled with statuary and sculpture salvaged from sites of Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic edifices. Its collection of cultural instruments, household utensils, arts and crafts provide an introduction to the life of the various ethnic groups, which populate Indonesia. This museum is popularly known as Gedung Gajah or "Elephant Building" because of the stone elephant offered by King Chulalongkorn of Thailand in 1871, placed on the front lawn of the building.
Due to its rapid growth, the building was transformed into a museum in 1862. As well as being excellent displays of everything Indonesian, leather puppet shows, called Wayang Kulit, are performed every second and last Saturday night of the month at the Central Museum in Jakarta.