National museum artefacts to be centrally digitised

New Delhi, Jan 29: Around 400,000 artefacts from 10 national museums across the country are being photographed, identified and sorted in various categories to create a digital online repository to bring “museums to the people” in a friendly manner.

In an agreement signed between the ministry of culture and the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) in January 2012 under the “Vivekananda Memorial Programme for Museum Excellence,” the two parties have been coherently working together to improve and upgrade Indian museums and their human resource.

The partnership has entered its second year.

“We want to have an outreach of our museums beyond a city. They should reach out to people in a systematic manner where they can look at all sculptures and read its details,” Ravindra Singh, joint secretary in the ministry, said at a press conference Wednesday.

“We are thinking in terms of tourists who will benefit from this database and it will allow them to plan accordingly. For example, if someone wants to check Buddhism category, they will get all artefacts belonging to this category from all museums,” he said. This streamlined information database is what they are creating, he pointed out.

The Centre for the Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune, has developed software “Jatan” that will have information and pictures of all artefacts from various museums across the country.

In the first phase, the culture ministry has decided to digitise information from 10 museums that are directly funded by the government.

This list includes the National Museum in New Delhi; the Indian Museum, Kolkata; the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad; the Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata; the Allahabad Museum; the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

This entire database would be available to people through a website that would be launched at the end of the year.

The ministry has ambitious plans of centralising database of 53 museums over three years, which will also involve digitising 44 site museums managed by the Archaeological Survey of India.

According to Ravindra, this will make India the first country to have such a system. He said one advantage of this is to make the “inventory” public.

However, while this digitisation with the aim of bringing people closer to museums is a refined idea, it has also triggered a fear of less visitors at museums.

But, AIC president and director Douglas Druick thinks otherwise. “This is not going to take away museum from people, but it will bring them closer,” he said.

“We have observed overtime, familiarity with images breeds desires. Once people know the image, they wish to encounter it. The best example of this is Mona Lisa. People have seen her pictures, they are so common, yet many people visit the Louvre Museum (Paris) to see it actually,” he added.

IANS