What would you preserve?
In a first of its kind project, Google Cultural Institute has set up a digital installation called Future Relics at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS). The aim is to actively involve museum visitors in the creation of an artefact that preserves the current moment for the future.
This is part of the ongoing exhibition, India And The World: A History In Nine Stories. Google Cultural Institute has previously partnered with more than 40 museums and cultural organizations in India. With this project, Google came on board to “explore how we could use technology to extend the theme of the exhibition,” says Paris-based Freya Murray, program manager and creative lead, Google Cultural Institute Lab.
“We ask people who come to visit the exhibition one simple question: What object would you choose for archaeologists to uncover 1,000 years from now that represents our present-day culture?” says Murray, who was in Mumbai to set up Future Relics. Visitors have the option to respond in one of three languages—Hindi, Marathi and English. This information is used on the backend by Google Translate to combine the answers and inscribe them on to a digital form of vases. “So we have this growing landscape of vases and pots with each person’s contribution imprinted on them. Let’s say you said that the object you want to contribute is an aluminium pressure cooker but you wrote in Hindi and I wrote it in English. As the exhibition progresses, we’ll start to see the objects that most people have chosen, the commonalities, and shared stories of what we want to preserve will emerge,” says Murray.
The art work comes together as the exhibition progresses over three months in Mumbai. For the duration of the exhibition, which opened on 11 November, this is done on digital vases. At the end of the exhibition, Google will print in 3D up to 10 vases made of the most popular objects shared and gift them to various museums around the world. “These physical future relics will act like a time capsule for generations to view in the future,” says Murray.
India And The World—a collaboration between CSMVS, British Museum, London, and the National Museum, New Delhi—reveals Indian history as situated within parallel narratives of world history. Future Relics opens up the conversation to the present day and to people visiting the museum. “As the exhibition is about objects and dialogue, we wanted to look at how we can bring some of those questions to people, for them to consider within their own lives and the everyday. We wanted to find a way to have an active dialogue with visitors who came to the museum, and hence have a deeper, more involved museum experience,” says Murray.
Google’s intent with the Cultural Institute is to provide access to knowledge that resides within museums and cultural institutions. There is an element of preservation, finding new forms of engagement and storytelling. Future Relics takes the technology company’s vision of digitizing museum knowledge a step further, to creating new knowledge. “It’s an experiment and we’ll wait to see how it materializes. But an essential idea is to get people to think about their own lives,” says Murray.