Museums these days are not only about showcasing artefacts but with the technological interventions like artificial intelligence, 3D models and HD displays, museums in India are reinventing themselves.
Museums around the world are coming up with technological innovations like virtual reality, voice recognition software, robots as guides, etc.; while India is still trying to struggle with artefacts, paintings and statutes in the museums. However, slowly yet steadily the country is reinventing its museums.
Over the years, museums in India have also been trying to think out of the box. One such example is the Centre for Indian Music Experience (CIME), considered to be India’s first museum that is dedicated to music. The CIME museum in Bengaluru will open fully within the next two months and is expected to have 40 iPads across different galleries that contain multimedia content to support the exhibits.
There is a section called the Sound Garden that has already been opened to the public. It has touch-sensitive installations of chimes, gongs and bells that are set to 12 musical notes. The most interesting part is that music enthusiasts can experiment with combinations and create their own tunes. The museum is also expected to have sessions for documentaries, interactive games and sing-along kiosks that will give an insight into the niche musical genres and traditional gharanas.
Another initiative that brings the memories of India’s partition in front of the visitors is the Partition Museum in Amritsar – world’s first space dedicated to memory of the division of the subcontinent. The museum is about everyday objects and memories of the traumatic event and visitors can source details of people who were affected by it. With over 5,000 artefacts, the museum includes oral history, photographs, letters and video footage.
Similarly Bihar museum in Patna is coming up with technological upgradation in the galleries done as per International Council of Museums (ICOM) guidelines. “We are working with Singapore-based company Cityneon Holdings Limited to create content in modern ways that can appeal to the younger generation. Adjacent to each artefact exhibited in the museum will be an HD audiovisual and touchscreen display. These AV panels will reflect all the required information about the artefact. These user-friendly displays will be bilingual,” a curator of the museum told the Indian media.
Where does India lack?
A 2017 UNESCO report revealed that the country’s top museums still suffered from a woeful lack of maintenance and even basic lighting and signage, the result of decades of neglect. In 2014, a study by the British Council showed that the situation remained grim, with a dire lack of trained professionals and a painfully slow pace of technological advancement.
Over 33 pc of Indian museums are state-run and government organisations do not take much initiative to enhance it. Out of India’s 2017-2018 budget, less than one percent (0.13 pc specifically) has been earmarked for the entire ministry of culture, which manages libraries, cultural institutions and archives, besides national museums.
However, there are organisations that are trying to enhance Indian museums. Google Arts & Culture are currently helping about 50 museums in India with their digital lifecycle — from online collection management to digitisation on mobile and desktop. Programme manager Simon Rein says technologies like 3D printing, art cameras, street views and 360-degree videos are drawing attention to interesting and lesser-known sub-cultures.
Technologically enhanced museums worldwide
Museums all around the world are beyond comparison to the Indian museums. The Natural History Museum in London is has a virtual reality section where visitors have to wear headsets to experience a 360-degree-view of prehistoric sea life swimming around them. “The museums in London are so advanced that it attracts visitors for sure. We do not see that in India. The Natural History Museum in London takes us in a whole new world. It’s like experiencing the story of Night at the Museum (2016) for real,” Ayantika Halder who recently visited London, told Media India Group.
The Digital Art Museum in Tokyo, spread across 107,000 sq ft of fluid space creates immersive experience for visitors. Similarly American Museum of Natural History provide AR prototypes for visitors. The curators of the museum are currently working with NASA to develop open source data visualisation software to simplify space exploration.