Delhi cultural heritage phone app will bring city’s amazing past to life


Postcard produced for the Safarnama project showing people (locals and travellers) on the bus studying the app

From the imposing beauty of Lutyens’ India Gate to the magnificent elegance of the Qutb Minar minaret, a new digital heritage app will bring Delhi's past into the present.

The mobile phone app, called Safarnama, was designed by researchers at Lancaster University and the Centre for the Study of Developing Studies (CSDS) in Delhi. Once downloaded onto a mobile phone from Google Play, the app allows users to scan QR codes which will download digital heritage experiences on their phones. Two of these heritage experiences will launch next week in Delhi.

The first, Gadhr se Azaadi, tells the story of the city from the revolt of 1857 to independence in 1947. It includes images and texts that set out the transformation of Delhi into an Imperial capital city and, subsequently, as a centre for the freedom movement. The heritage experience captures the many lives of the city, and encompasses both known monuments and lesser known histories.

The second, Partition City Delhi, contains information relating to the transformation of the city from 1947, when the Partition of India was announced until the end of the 1950s. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people entered and left the city in the years after the Partition. The experience contains information relating to refugee camps, government measures to support those who had lost their livelihoods and loved ones, and to the creation of new residential settlements in the West and South of the City.

A key member of the app design team Dr Deborah Sutton, from Lancaster University’s History Department, said: “The app takes history out of museums and books and puts it back into the streets and stones of the city.”

Safarnama digital heritage experiences are designed to create heritage awareness to people as they travel across the city. As they near particular points of interest, travellers will receive a push notification through the app. If they pass close enough - within a ‘trigger zone’ - their phone will automatically open the media associated with the place of interest.

The Safarnama app and heritage experiences are aimed at both Delhi residents and tourists alike. The app provides a means for travellers keen to get under the skin of the city, to find unexpected histories in familiar places and to discover more about the Partition.

It is designed to be used in short bursts - perhaps only a couple of minutes - by android phone users as they travel across the city. Although it is based on movement around the city, all media will be contained within the app itself allowing users to explore the materials off-line from any location.

A second Partition City app is currently under construction in Karachi. ‘Partition City Karachi’ is being created in partnership with the Pakistan Community Chowk, a heritage organisation in Karachi. Partition City Karachi will tell the stories of Pakistan’s first capital during the Partition in 1947 and in the decade after.

Dr Sutton, who lived in Delhi for five years, was captivated by the ‘energy and excitement’ of the city when she studied for a PhD at the city’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Now a Senior Lecturer in modern South Asian history, Dr Sutton, with the aid of a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, wants others to feel the energy of the city’s fabric and heritage as she does.

“We wanted to capture the way history in Delhi is actually held within and under the stones – so much extraordinary heritage is embedded within small places and barely seen fragments,” said Dr Sutton.

“With that in mind we really thought about how technology could reanimate the city. There are so many stories to be told and so many sounds to hear – and the app provides the medium to do this. It’s a new way of seeing the past – a fantastic philosophy.”

Partition City Delhi will launch on September 17 in Delhi.

 



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