Going back with the future


Express News Service

India’s rich cultural heritage is a beautiful amalgamation of artistic treasures, age-old traditions, vibrant dances, and varied cultures. Together, these give rise to a legacy that goes back to thousands of years. However, with the pandemic, we’ve experienced an immense distance—physical and intellectual—to sites of cultural importance. And while this might not be a cause for concern for most of us, there’s a possibility that the next generation might feel disconnected with their history and heritage over time. On the last day of World Heritage Week we assess the many alternative measures available for children to explore their heritage. tive measures for children to explore their heritage.

Soumyadip sinha

Advent of digital walks 

From touring sites of historical importance to traversing gardens and forests, most Delhiites are smitten with the idea of walks. City walks have the potential to help one experience a space with utmost authenticity while simultaneously assimilating information about the site’s history and cultural value. Keeping this in mind, a number of organisations across Delhi-NCR have been organising walks for children so as to familiarise them with the heritage value of various sites and monuments.  “Heritage walks have a lot of learning value attached to them. Kids see the illustration of the Dancing Girl in their books but it is another experience to see it at the National Museum, wherein its minutest details are visible,” says Moby Sara Zachariah, a  heritage walk leader from Delhi.

Since the pandemic, most of these walks are conducted digitally. Talking about the scope of digital walks in helping children build a connection with history, Swapna Liddle, a historian from Delhi, explains, “While school groups are still not visiting heritage sites, some young people may be in a position to visit with their immediate family. To ensure that such a visit is educational and enriching, good informational signage on site becomes very important. In addition, these visits can be enhanced through digital technologies such as apps that provide audio-visual support. Digital technologies can enable an online form of the heritage walk, suitable for the virtual classroom. This is an illustrated talk by an expert, who can incorporate photographs and videos of a site along with other resources such as archival images to make its history and heritage come alive remotely.”

At a time when visiting heritage spaces physically becomes difficult, organisations such as Enroute Indian History and India City Walks have already adopted the digital medium to help children build a connection with culture. 

‘Young Explorers’, a vertical of India City Walks, attempts to make children culturally strong by curating opportunities to help them experience heritage sites first-hand, “Our aim [through India City Walks] is to help everyone explore the story of India and empower the new generation to minimise the effects of tourism on the environment. Through ‘Young Explorers’ we operate heritage programs for kids interlinking, education, visitor monument sites, and outdoor learning experiences. There is a need to create special access for families with children,” says Sachin Bansal, Chief Explorer, India City Walks and India Heritage Walks.  

AR to the rescue

Internationally, governments are increasingly adopting virtual mediums such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to promote tourism. While AR offers an enhanced experience of the real world, VR extends a complete immersion in virtual reality. Both the technologies can support the traditional tours and create extensive exploration methods of heritage sites for children. In India, platforms like Augtraveler use AR to help tourists explore the built and cultural heritage of the world. For children, they combine this technology with multidisciplinary activity books to build an interactive insight of heritage sites. 

“When kids go to visit a heritage site these days, it is more like an Instagram opportunity or a picnic spot because of the lack of authentic interpretation of the site. It is important to evolve these heritage sites as knowledge dissemination zones. For the same, we have co-created these books; these can be utilised with the application,” shares Pankaj Manchanda, founder of Augtraveler.

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