Consider walking down a museum, looking at artefacts of the past, observing the narrative that led to the modern-day world. But then, you are stopped and asked to think about the future. In a first-of-its-kind lab experiment, Google Arts & Culture (an online platform through which the public can access high-resolution images of artworks housed in the initiative’s partner museums) unveiled a digital installation, titled Future Relics (as part of the ongoing exhibition, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories) at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) in Mumbai in November 2017. The idea behind this interactive installation is to take participants on a shared journey, connecting the past with the present while looking towards the future.
As visitors navigate the museum and come across the installation on a screen, they are asked to react to the question, “What object would you like archaeologists 1,000 years from now to remember our present-day culture by?” Visitors have the option to respond in either Hindi, Marathi or English by typing in on the device. At the end of the three-month-long exhibition, a special collection of 3D-printed clay vases will be designed, which will have inscribed on them visitors’ most popular contributions. The contributions will provide a peep into what our future generations will see of the present day. The exhibition, India And The World: A History In Nine Stories, is part of Google Cultural Institute Lab, an initiative unveiled by Google in 2011 for online exhibits.
Speaking about the installation, Freya Murray, programme manager and creative lead, Google Cultural Institute Lab, says, “Thousands of visitors have already contributed to Future Relics and we are certain that more and more visitors will continue to engage with the installation, as they visit the museum.” The most popular objects shared by visitors so far have been mobile phones, cars, plastic and watches. “Some other unique objects shared are Hessian, cassette, missile warhead, violin, paintbrush and bone,” Murray adds.
With this project, Google aims to “explore how technology can help convey connected stories through an archeological lens,” says Murray. The installation asks its audience to pause and consider their own lives and stories within the context of the global histories presented by India and the world.
“The whole idea is to reach out to student and local communities in Maharashtra particularly, and the country at large,” says Sabyasachi Mukherjee, director, CSMVS, which has partnered with Google Arts & Culture.
India And The World: A History In Nine Stories, a collaboration between the CSMVS, London’s British Museum and Delhi’s National Museum, covers iconic moments of India’s history, from its prehistoric past to the present, against the backdrop of comparable happenings in other parts of the world at the same time. “This is a chronology-based thematic exhibition, which highlights India’s glorious past through iconic art objects from Indian collections with an aim to explore connections and comparisons between India and the rest of the world,” says Mukherjee.
The exhibition combines objects from the collections of the CSMVS and the National Museum with objects on loan from 28 partner institutions across India and from the British Museum. “The research and selection of objects for this exhibition and the involvement of 28 institutes were a few major challenges that the management of CSMVS had to face,” he adds.
The exhibits range from life-size sculptures, figurative representations, inscriptions and coins to paintings, jewellery, etc. “We are overwhelmed with the response and are humbled to see that more and more visitors are becoming part of the time capsule that will capture the most popular objects reflecting our lives today,” says Murray.
Agrees Mukherjee: “The objects narrate social, political, economic and cultural positions, and demonstrate how similarities can lead to an appreciation of the long and shared histories India has had with the rest of the world, while differences show respect for parallel systems of knowledge,” he says.
India and the World: A History in Nine Stories will run till mid-February in Mumbai and will then travel to Delhi’s
* National Museum for the next three months