An immersive experience

Brightly lit rooms exhibiting sculptures, artefacts and valuable paintings and a few people watching them with a pin drop silence is what one can expect in museums across the country. Place Hampi is that kind of museum situated in JSW township, Thoranagallu, Ballari where one gets a feeling of entering a sophisticated theatre that unveils the drama of mythological, historical as well as archaeological details of a medieval Indian metropolis, Hampi. 

World of images

As one steps into the darkness of the museum, a projected image of rangoli on the floor of the entrance welcomes the visitor. Details of Hampi and intent of the museum are illumined for display on the walls in the opening room. As we move to witness them, our attention is diverted to the conversations of women and children in the local dialect of Kannada. As curiosity grows, a realisation of being surrounded by recorded sounds slowly sets in. A feeling of being in the midst of monuments of Hampi fills our soul. A round table with a satellite map of Hampi and its surroundings with the location of important places marked, draw the attention of visitors.

Place Hampi presents this most visited UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in a new light. A gist of 30 years of documentation of this vast area which began in 1980 finds a place in the museum. A meticulous documentation was done under Vijayanagar Research Project carried out by a group of international researchers. Renowned architectural historian George Michell and archaeologist John Fritz along with architectural photographer John Gollings had spent their time in this endeavour. Curator of the museum, Sarah Kenderdine who joined them in later years conceptualised the idea of exhibiting the rich heritage of Hampi to the people all over the world. 

As the visitors walk along the dark corridors towards the next gallery, a projected slideshow of magnified black and white images of monuments taken at night captivate our senses. A man with his bullock cart standing in front of Lotus Mahal, Mahanavami Dibba, rock chariot, elephant stable, Virupaksha Temple, all captured in an uncanny manner by Gollings tempt the visitors to revisit them in real during night hours. As many as 50 high-resolution photographs of Gollings that depict Hampi’s architectural features and the life amidst the ruins are exhibited in the Photography Room. Adorning the centre of this room is a supersized light table with high-resolution panoramic transparencies.

These include the ones taken by researchers during their fieldwork. “Children enjoy a lot while they go through this light table viewing these stereographic pictures one by one,” says Srinivas, who works as a guide at this museum. Ambisonic field recordings that fill the room make you feel as if you are a part of the panorama you are witnessing.

Visitors next enter the most interesting part of the museum, which takes them on a virtual tour to Hampi with the high-resolution panoramas of its most significant locations. A motorised round elevated platform on which the viewer stands and operates rotates 360 degrees to get the full view of each of 120 degree projected panoramic pictures to give them an out of the world experience. A background music score enriches the experience further. Visitors also get a chance to listen to the recordings of music that resonated from the pillars of Vijaya Vittala Temple.

Of things found

Archaeological Room in the concluding part of the museum has an interactive light table with a display of 120 images that throw light on the enormity of the work done during 30 years of the research project. Each image has a barcode that can be scanned to project it on to the adjoining wall with a scholarly description of the content which includes interpreted site plans, drawings and renderings of various features, and fieldwork notebooks. On the adjoining wall in the same room, a video clip of a twenty minutes conversation by Sarah Kenderdine with George Michell and John Fritz reflecting their 30 years of archaeological work at Hampi is played. As visitors come out of the museum, the effect of the interactive installation on them is such that one would be on his or her toes to visit Hampi at the earliest if he or she has planned it for the first time. 

“I hope that the museum helps more people understand Hampi. Also, this exhibition sets an example for further explorations in interpreting and deciphering cultural heritage,’’ says Sangita Jindal, Chairperson, JSW foundation. ‘‘I feel Place Hampi should be on the list of every visitor of Hampi. It’s simply amazing! Even the aged have the advantage of experiencing some of the locations which they may not be able to do in reality because of their age,’’ says Vineetha Sagar, a visitor. 

For more information, log on to www.place-hampi.museum.

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An immersive experience

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