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'Safarnama': New app to let people engage with heritage on the go

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: September 15, 2019  | 17:02 IST

By Kunal Dutt New Delhi, Sep 15 (PTI) Seeking to engage the people with architectural legacy and the forgotten stories of the past, a new heritage app is all set to be launched on Tuesday that will allow them to "digitally interact" with Delhi's cultural landmarks. The app -- 'Safarnama' -- is endowed with an "enormous range of material" drawn from archives in India and abroad, said Deborah Sutton, the principal investigator of the project. "From conception to execution, the project has taken us nearly two years, and the app uses the GPS location of the phone to pinpoint the heritage buildings nearby it with a small notification that pops up once in the vicinity," Sutton told PTI. She said the idea of such an app is to make people engage with history and heritage on a daily basis and on the go. The Android-based app, available on Google Play, has two components -- Delhi Partition City and Ghadar se Azadi Tak -- spanning the period from 1857-1947. "After downloading the app, a user will need to scan QR codes available on customised postcards which we have designed for the project. After scanning, the user would be able to access the archival material pre-loaded in the app," said Sutton, who is from Lancaster University in the UK. The material has been drawn from the Delhi State Archives, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, British Library, University of Michigan repository, Library of Congress in the US, Times of India archives, among other sources, she said. "The idea is to enhance the digital heritage experience with audio-visual aid and pictures embedded in the app. So, if a user is walking through Chandni Chowk and happens to be nearby Begum Samru's Palace, he or she will get a pop-up notification," Sutton said. "Quite often we walk past a place but don't know the layers of history that lie behinds it. Also, in many cases old buildings have either been renamed, re-purposed or rebuilt after demolition. So this app essentially creates a sense of curiosity among people about the city's heritage," she said. So, many people walking on the Rajpath or Janpath almost regularly wouldn't know they were originally called Kingsway and Queensway respectively, or the story behind those names. The app with its archival bank enhances the knowledge and experience of users, Sutton said. In many cases, the old buildings have been demolished but the legend and the story survived. So, the app gives a peep into that "forgotten or erased past" too, with the help of archives, she said. The project was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the UK and Lancaster University, she said. The partners in the project included, INTACH Delhi Chapter, 1947 Archives, and Centre for Community Knowledge at Ambedkar University in Delhi, said Sutton, who has a PhD in History from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The Ghadar se Azadi Tak segment deals with the 1857 Mutiny, creation of new imperial capital of New Delhi (from 1911-1931) and its growth till 1947 when India earned Independence. Sutton said, people are busy with their daily lives and so the app seeks to engage them with their surrounding landmarks. "So, people going to office, or transiting from one place to another in a cab, or travelling to airport, these are the moments when the app will alert them if they are travelling past an old monument or take them to the stories associated with these landmarks," the researcher said.  If a user has chosen 1947 Partition City segment on the app, and travelling past Purana Quila, then a notification will come up to inform that refugees from Pakistan had sought shelter here right after the bloody Partition, she said. "We are launching the app on Tuesday in Delhi and soon we will decide where all these QR-code postcards will be available. Also, this is a first version of the app and we invite suggestions from people to improve it or point mistakes if any," Sutton said. "The primary idea is that a person can be made aware of heritage not just during a heritage walk but can also be engaged during day-to-day lives as well," she said. PTI KND TIR TIR

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