From a museum in Kerala dedicated to police uniforms and weapons, to the “Conflictorium” in Ahmedabad recording the History of Conflicts, to Delhi’s Vintage Camera Museum, more than 1,000 big and small museums in the country will soon be accessible digitally under a first-of-its-kind mapping project launched on 18 May by the online resource Sahapedia.
Amitabh Kant, the CEO of Niti Aayog formally launched www.museumsofindia.org at the International Museum Day celebrations(18 May) at the National Museum in Delhi, where he called for greater public-private sector partnerships in conserving and showcasing the mammoth storehouse of India’s priceless historical artifacts as yet unseen by the public.
Sahapedia’s Museum Mapping project is currently in its primary documentation phase, hosting 143 museums across 10 cities: Baroda, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi and NCR, Shillong, Guwahati, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bangalore, and Kolkata. The goal is to have more than 1,000 museums across the country covered by December this year.
Vaibhav Chauhan, director (resource mobilisation), Sahapedia, who leads the project, said the portal will be developed over three phases. The first informational phase will have details intended for the public in an accessible digital format, including information such as geo-location, highlights of the collections, images, ticket prices, opening hours, parking facility, other amenities and disability friendliness and so on.
In the second phase a B2B networking and knowledge-sharing platform will be built into it for the museums, allowing them to have interactions and organize discussions, meetings and events. The final phase would be a transactional phase where Sahapedia hopes to build a platform for people to book tickets to museums, take virtual tours, buy memberships and souvenirs etc.
Niti Aayog, which has been mulling an overarching Museum Authority of India, has identified creative industry as an area of focus for the future, to project India’s soft power.
"Museums will be critical to preserving the culture, heritage and treasures of India. The government has the tangible things but not the huge amount of knowledge, ability, manpower, and the creativity to display these artifacts,” Kant said. “It is very necessary that this area is opened up to public private partnership. We need to create a unique model to be able to bring these stored artifacts to light."
Dr Sudha Gopalakrishnan, the Executive Director of the not-for-profit Sahapedia, said it was important for heritage preservation efforts to go digital.
“There is a new sensitivity around the world with regard to museums; people no longer see artifacts as static pieces they realize there are stories behind each of them and the function of the museum is to bring these stories together. Digital technology can be a great story-telling tool and also be used to reach a wide audience, especially the younger generation,” she said.
“Sahapedia is also happy to be showing the way in using digital platforms to document, preserve and disseminate our culture, traditions and heritage, it is a model for how public and private sector can come together for the purpose. We hope that more private entities, especially local and small ones can come forward to support conservation initiatives at the local, panchayat levels,” she added.
Besides the mapping project, Sahapedia has taken up other initiatives to increase interactions with museums, for example by including museum walks into its regular heritage walks and heritage education programmes.
On Thursday, Sahapedia conducted a special museum walk for underprivileged girls in collaboration with the Salaam Baalak Trust. It also partnered the Kiran Nadar Museum of Arts (KNMA) and curated a talk on “Role of Design & Technology in Museum Experience” and organized a musical walk-through of the KNMA collection.
Sahapedia is using the hashtag #ILoveMuseums and #museumsofindia to generate online interest among young Indians and plans to release a series of short interviews of museum professionals and enthusiasts following the launch of the Museum Mapping Project. “Sahapedia is proud to be the first to create such a comprehensive digital map of museums; there is no such centralized database in India today,” said Chauhan.