The museum goes high-tech
As part of a technological upgrade, audio guides will make way for QR codes, and exhibits will be accompanied by interactive interfaces at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
In a world full of visual stimuli, where even a moment of ennui is combated with a tap on the phone, museums are faced with a unique situation. As repositories of moments frozen in time, how do they ensure an experience that goes beyond visitors stopping by an exhibit and reading the label?
The challenge has been taken on by various institutions in their own ways. The Vatican Museums, for instance, offer multi-lingual guided tours where historians liven up a visitor's experience by interlinking the stories behind the exhibits for a cohesive narrative, and sharing information, trivia and anecdotes to provide context to Michelangelo and Raphael's masterpieces. Closer home, the well-planned audio tours at the Maharaja Fatesingh Museum in Vadodara help visitors appreciate the objets d'art collected by the Gaekwads of the erstwhile Baroda state.
Nominally priced audio guides and free public tours by members of the curatorial team of Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum (BDL) have been a part of Mumbai's oldest museum since it was reopened in 2008 after a massive restoration. While a recent visit to the Byculla institution revealed that some of the audio guides have gone kaput (five guides each in Hindi, Marathi and English languages remain functional), in a subsequent chat with the museum authorities, we learnt that BDL is undergoing a technological upgrade.
"We are working on a museum app and URL upgrade so visitors can use their phone to access information. We can provide more information this way. Technology is a great tool to make the museum a fun place to learn about so many different things," shares Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, managing trustee and honorary director of the museum, adding that while the research has been done, the recording process takes time.
Tasneem Zakaria Mehta
"A lot has changed in the world of technology since the current audio guides were made available at the museum. We have had several discussions internally and have been considering switching to QR codes," informs Himanshu Kadam, the museum's curator, referring to a type of barcode, which can be scanned using a smartphone to access more information, including what has been available on audio guides, about an exhibit. "Most people in the city today have a basic smartphone. QR codes will allow easy accessibility, and help visitors avoid queues and technical glitches that tend to accompany audio guides," he says. The shift is likely to happen in the next couple of months.
Another facet that the museum authorities have been considering is an interactive interface for the collection. "The one exhibit that we have been working towards is the Mumbadevi sculpture [placed in the Kamalnayan Bajaj Mumbai Gallery on the first floor]. It has taken a lot of visits to the temple, delving into its history and linking it with the existing museum collection," he explains. A tablet-like device will accompany the exhibit so that visitors can immerse themselves in a well-rounded experience.
Audio guides at the museum will be replaced by smartphone-accessible QR codes
The plan is to extend the technology to other sections of the museum, such as the pottery cluster and the Industrial Arts gallery. In the meantime, it is aiming to make the first interactive interface accompanying the sculpture of the goddess the city is named after available by March-April next year.
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