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‘Lack of funding and participation are primary challenges in culture’

Since their launch in April 2016, Sahapedia, an online repository on the arts, cultures and heritage of India has launched several fellowships and programmes, besides conducting a India Heritage Walk Festival. The two years haven’t been without challenges, Vaibhav Chauhan, Executive Secretary, Sahapedia and Festival Director, IHWF 2018, shares with us in an exclusive interview. But now they are “moving towards controlled crowd sourcing and partnerships for a widespread but authentic content.” Sahapedia has also started another online initiative of mapping museums across India. Vaibhav tells us about it and much more. Read on.

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Excerpts:

It’s been two years since the launch of Sahapedia. Would you like to shed light on the journey so far?

The journey so far has been good with our academic credentials. We are now moving towards controlled crowdsourcing and partnerships for a widespread but authentic content. Our Fellowship programme, in collaboration with UNESCO. Additionally, we are also in the process of introducing lighter content, parallel to the in-depth academic content, that will be in shorter format (500-700 words).

Considering India’s apathy towards the cultural wealth and institutions, what kind of challenges did you face, something you hadn’t foreseen when you started?

One of the primary challenges in culture is that of lack of funding and thelack of participation on institutional level. However, the situation is changing and the government and corporate are showing interest. Scalable ideas such as the recently concluded India Heritage Walk Festival have been entertained and appreciated.

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Why there was a need to have a separate site for mapping the museums of India? Also, presently, you have listed out museums of several Indian states. What is your vision for this site in terms of growth and engagement?

There is hardly any information about what different museums feature and what

they have. It started with collating the museums in Delhi. However, as it had a limitation of scale, for the Museums of India project we focussed on the website as it gave an opportunity for more exploration.

So far we have documented nearly 250 museums to our website and the response has been

quite encouraging.We are planning to cover around 600+ museums by the next year. With this, we plan to reach out to around 80% of the total viewership. The plan is to grow organically and we assume that rest of the Museums will be listing their entries on their own. We also seek to make this platform transactional from the third phase. In the third phase, we aim to provide services like docent booking, ticket bookings and e-museum shop through this portal.

The engagement of people with art and culture is limited. How does Sahapedia aim to bridge the gap with its vast pool of resources and the freedom of flexibility to collaborate?

The digital nature of our platform, to a great extent, has helped us in bridging this gap. In addition to this, we are also focusing on outreach and experiential activities such as the heritage walks and Baithaks (series of talks by experts as well as emerging speakers on their respective areas of research, interest, and scholarship) that brings us closer to the target group.

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Culture of theatre, visual or performing arts is often limited to metropolitan cities, depriving people in other states to engage with art. How do you think that this divide could be bridged?

One of the ways is to develop a strong network of cultural practitioners across the country through collaborations on organizational and individual levels. India Heritage Walk Festival is an example of the effort taken in this direction that facilitated the engagement of people with heritage and cultural spaces across the country, including tier 2 and tier 3 cities, through significant partnerships. More such initiatives are required for visual and performing arts.

What is your roadmap for the next five years?

From the technical perspective, we aim to work on more user-friendly interface and focus on making it more personalized to scale the public engagement. We also plan to expand our outreach programmes geographically and include more topics and subjects for maximum participation.

In parallel, we also aim to introduce lighter and more user-friendly content for the layman in short format but maintaining the academic credentials.

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