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Safarnama: New interactive app for unique heritage experience in Delhi

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: September 18, 2019  | 17:31 IST

By Kunal Dutt New Delhi, Sep 18 (PTI) Celebrating Delhi's architectural legacy and making old and forgotten stories about the city "more accessible", a new app has been launched that lets people "digitally interact" with cultural landmarks. The app 'Safarnama', endowed with an "enormous range of material" drawn from archives in India and abroad, was unveiled here on Monday evening. "We are very delighted to announce the launch of the 'Safarnama' app that took us nearly two years. The app uses the GPS location of the phone to pinpoint the heritage buildings nearby with a small notification that pops up once it comes within the 'trigger zone'," Deborah Sutton, the principal investigator of the project, told PTI. She said the idea of the heritage app is to make people engage with history and heritage on a daily basis and on the go. The 'trigger zone' ranging 100 metre or less from the location of the monument or heritage building, even when they may be hidden, gets activated when a user enters that zone, said UK-based Jack Woodmansey, a software developer who worked on the coding of the mobile application. 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. "The app has two in-built curated experiences based on the two components that lets them learn about the history and heritage associated with Delhi from 1857 rebellion to the Partition in 1947," said Sutton, who's from Lancaster University in the UK. The app is constantly being upgraded and earlier a user after downloading the app would have needed to scan QR codes available on customised postcards designed for the project, she said. "Now the two curated 'Delhi experiences' have been pre-loaded and in future, a user can use QR code scanning to access other thematic experiences which are not loaded in the app," Sutton said. The material has been drawn from Delhi State Archives, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, British Library, Univesity 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 lies behinds it. Also, in many cases old buildings have been renamed, repurposed or rebuilt after demolition, and so this app essential creates a sense of curiosity among people about the city's heritage," she said. So, many of those walking on 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 have survived. So, the app gives a peep into that "forgotten or erased past" too, with the help of archives. She gave example of Delhi Stock Exchange's old building in Chandani Chowk which doesn't exist anymore, but the app lets the user know about its history with an archival picture when he or she goes near the location pinned on the map through the app. The project was supported by 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 Univesity in Delhi, said Sutton who has a PhD in History from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi. 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 on the go. "So, people going to office, or transiting from one place to another in a cab or metro, 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. PTI KND RT

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