Urban Heritage and the Digital Humanities in India

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: History


The 'Urban Heritage and Digital Humanities in India' Research Network will develop the considerable potential of Digital Humanities technologies for the documentation, promotion and conservation of heritage in dynamic urban environments. The network will consist of three inter-related events to bring together historians, heritage professionals, geographers, architects, computer scientists, amateur activists and the public in India and the UK. The network will adress the conservation of tangible and intangible heritage in Delhi. Delhi's extraordinarily rich and complex heritage is held under a range of, often complex, state and private custodies. The city is also a rapidly changing urban environment in which physical transformation, formal and informal, and concomitant social and economic change within localities places heritage under persistent pressure. This project will take an integrated approach to the physical fabrics of the past and will encompass monuments protected by legislation and fragmented physical remains that are embedded within living urban environments. The network will be particularly concerned with the range of intangible heritages - memory, oral lore and song - which enrich and animate the pasts of the city. A key aim of the project will be to promote awareness, engagement and dialogue about the heritage of the city among those who live around fragments of the physical past.

The Project Partners for the Research Network are the Delhi Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage, The Centre for Community Knowledge based at Ambedkar University Delhi and the 1947 Partition Archive Project. These Project Partners have a wealth of knowledge about the city's past, and present, and will provide experience and expertise in tangible and intangible heritage documentation and conservation. The Research Network will promote the potential of digital technologies to enhance and integrate documentation, conservation and engagement work. The workshops will consider the potential and the challenges associated with the use of digital technologies and media for the conservation, sustainability, custodial and access rights in relation to tangible and intangible heritage. The network aims to build capacity in Digital Humanities technologies. Practical, hands-on software training in GIS mapping, digital conversion, statistical and corpus linguistic analysis will form a core component of the two workshops to be held in Delhi in September 2017 and August 2019.

A key outcome of the project is the creation of a prototype smart phone app - SHARC Dilli - that will create interactive maps of heritage in the city. The geomapping app will be configured from geomapping software developed in the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University and will be developed collaboratively by the Research Network at workshop events in Delhi and Lancaster. Geomapping has particular potential in Delhi, a city in which heritage is richly layered, and often obscured, within rapidly changing urban environments. The app will map textual, visual and aural information against particular localities in the city to provide heritage-place stories and to connect monuments, memories and remains which are spatially dispersed across the city. Geospatial mapping captures the complexity of everyday understandings of urban spaces and their pasts and can, uniquely, encompass the multiple meanings that characterise the dynamic richness of urban history. The app will be designed in Hindi and English to promote awareness, discussion and, in turn, protection for a range of tangible and intangible heritage across the city. As a prototype, the app will provide located textual, visual and aural information about the refugee occupation of various heritage buildings in the city during and after the Partition of British and Princely India in 1947.

Planned Impact

The Research Network is designed to create impact on the documentation, analysis and conservation of urban heritage by facilitating integrated approaches to urban heritage and promoting public debate and dialogue about the significance and value of tangible and intangible heritage. Digital technology can bring the rich dynamic cultural heritage and living demography of the city into meaningful contact. The Research Network has a multi-disciplinary approach and will emphasis practical and strategic measures to build capacity in urban heritage conservation. Digital Humanities techniques have the potential to strengthen the connections between different agencies concerned with the documentation and conservation of cultural heritage and build and enrich the relationship between those agencies and a variety of urban publics.

The workshops on Digital Humanities in Delhi will draw together a wide-range of stakeholders in Delhi's urban heritage. These include 1. Government organisations (for example, the Archaeological Survey of India, the National Archives of India and the Delhi State Archives), 2. Non-governmental organisations (for example, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage), 3. Non-professional heritage activists and volunteers (for example, Delhi Heritage Walks, Delhi Heritage Photographic Club, Friends of the ASI, India Youth for Heritage Foundation), and 4. Our Project Partners, the Delhi chapter of the Indian National trust for Art and Culture Heritage, the Centre for Community Knowledge and the 1947 Partition Archive Project.

The workshops will develop the potential of a range of Digital Humanities methodologies to transform heritage documentation, analysis and dissemination. They will provide advanced-level software training in specific techniques for data collation, mapping and analysis. This training will be tailored for the audience at each of the workshops. These groups will benefit from 1. the pooling of expertise, experience and insight into the challenges of heritage conservation in challenging urban environments, 2. the provision of tailored software training using a range of documentation, mapping and analytical technologies, 3. the development of protocols for the licensing and sharing of data and other knowledge forms associated with intangible and tangible heritage, 4. the development of a prototype geospatial mapping app for the city in order to develop and promote the potential of digital methods for urban heritage documentation and conservation.

It is essential to foster stakeholder value for local heritage. The Research Network will aim to use tools developed by Digital Humanities to promote shared values around resources and public spaces in urban India. The Research Network will design and develop the first heritage app in India, SHARC Dilli, to geomap a range of information about specific places associated with the city's past. SHARC Dilli will be designed to have a significant impact on the lives of citizens of Delhi living in heritage rich localities and to draw a wider public into a dialogue with the city's physical and cultural past. Geomapping heritage will allow governmental and non-governmental stakeholders in the urban environment to connect to the heritage of localities in new way. Through the SHARC Dilli app, stakeholders will have the opportunity both to encounter the constellation of different pasts in the city and to feed back narratives, nomenclatures and meanings that can be incorporated into the app.

The use of digital technologies to collate and promote tangible and intangible heritage will create new engagements between that heritage and the many agencies responsible for urban infrastructural and architectural development. Geomapping physical and cultural pasts within localities will facilitate the creation of new ways of thinking about the importance of the city's many pasts within its future.


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Description The Research Network brought together academics, curators, archivists and heritage volunteers to undertake software training and to explore the potential of the digital humanities in complex urban environments. The project used the safarnama platform to create two digital heritage experiences, 'Delhi Partition City' and 'Gadhr se Azaadi' (Rebellion to Freedom). Both experiences were launched in Delhi on 17 September 2019 and have received significant attention in the city and national media.

The safarnama software creates heritage engagement based in mobility and proximity. The experiences contain trigger zones around places of interest. If app users pass within these trigger zones, they receive a push notification alerting them to nearby heritage. In this way, smart phone users can encounter 'ambient' heritage in small bursts, and in several languages, as they travel across urban landscapes.

A further digital heritage experience, Partition City Karachi, has been developed with the Pakistan Chowk Community Centre in Karachi. This experience will launch and be made available through the safarnama app in April 2020.
Exploitation Route The authoring software is freely available. The PI was invited to the Lahore University of Management Science in September 2019 to provide software training to a group of students so that they could build their own heritage experiences of the Walled City in Lahore.

Discussions are now taking place with Professor Claire Connolly, UCC, to adapt the software to be used on her EU-funded 'Ports, Past & Present' project. The software will be used to create everyday digital encounters with the heritage of the Irish Sea crossing and six Irish and Welsh ports.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.safarnama.safarnama
Description The safarnama authoring tool is now being used to create heritage experiences for the Ports, Past and Present Project, based at UCC, Ireland (PI, Clare Connolly). The digital heritage experiences will be launched in Spring 2021. One existing partner, the Centre for Community Knowledge, has begun working with our software platform to develop their own research impact. This will continue to be supported and to develop towards a seperate cultural heritage app for Delhi. A second collaboration has been created in Pakistan, with the Pakistan Chowk Community Centre. Software training was carried out on 30 March 2019 in London and the experience was created later in 2019. Professor Sarah Ansari, Royal Holloway University collaborated in the creation of this experience and tested the prototype experience in Karachi in December 2019.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Description A Digital Narratology of Technology
Amount रू 640,000 (INR)
Funding ID Emergent Areas of Impact, award no. 368 
Organisation Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration 
Sector Academic/University
Country India
Start 03/2020 
End 12/2021
Description Digital Innovation in Water Scarcity in Coimbatore, India
Amount £109,234 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/T011580/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2020 
End 02/2021
Title Safarnama Web-based authoring tool 
Description Safarnama is an open-access software platform: safarnama (story of a journey). This platform consists authoring software: (safarnama.lancaster.ac.uk) and a native app (available from Google Play). The safarnama software is a web-based authoring tool that allows users to create 'experiences' by combining and mapping a range of digital media - sound, 2D and 3D images and text - on a Google Map layer. These experiences can published within the safarnama app or published as QR codes and downloaded using the safarnama app. The safarnama software creates heritage engagement based in mobility and proximity. The experiences contain trigger zones around places of interest. If app users pass within these trigger zones, they receive a push notification alerting them to nearby heritage. In this way, smart phone users can encounter 'ambient' heritage in small bursts, and in several languages, as they travel across urban landscapes. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2019 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact These media are organised into two digital heritage experiences: Gadhr se Azaadi (Rebellion to Freedom) and Partition City Delhi. These experiences were launched in September 2019 in Delhi and received widespread press attention: Patriot, 27 September 2019: http://thepatriot.in/2019/09/27/heritage-at-your-fingertips/ Times of India, 18 September: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/safarnama-new-interactive-app-for-unique-heritage-experience-in-delhi/articleshow/71186065.cms Hindustan Times, 7 September 2019: https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/safarnama-heritage-app-to-tell-the-tales-of-delhi/story-8kDToOLR1zhjeSnbYbJuLK.html The safarnama app has been downloaded over 500 times from Google Play. Partition City Karachi, a heritage experience that mirrors the Delhi Partition City for Pakistan's first capital city, will launch on 23 March 2020. This heritage experience was created collaboratively with Pakistan Chowk Community Centre. 
URL https://www.safarnama.lancs.ac.uk
Description Digital Humanities Research Forum and Collaboration, Lancaster 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop will take place on 13 March at Lancaster University. The aim of the workshop is to focus on India-themed research using Digital Humanties methdologies and will cover digital heritage, corpus research and big data. The Co-Investigator, Hilal Ahmed, will also attend the event and meetings will take place to assemble and finalise the principal outcome of the research network, the Delhi Partition City App.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/dhindia/sharc-dilli/
Description Digital Humanities Workshop, Delhi, 11 & 12 April 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Digital Humanities Workshop took place at the offices of a project partner, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage in Delhi. The workshop was attended by postrgraduate students, academics, archivists, conservation architects and heritage professionals. The two-day workshop introduced a range of themes and issues and involved practicals to train participants in the use of ArcGIS software.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/dhindia/events-2/