The Case to Digitise Pakistan’s Museums, Art, Architecture and Landmarks.

Have you ever wondered how much of Pakistan’s great Art galleries, Museums Architecture and famous Landmarks have been digitised? I did. The answer can best be described by rephrasing the question into well smaller questions…

Q. How many Art galleries (national level) are 100% digitized?
Answer: None

Q. How many Artictectural landmarks have been digitized?
Answer: None

Q. How many World Heritage sites have been digitized?
Answer: None

Q. How many Museums have been digitized?
Answer: None.

Just think about it. How selffish we are when it comes to digitizing our own country’s great national weath. We do not even have a single entity as described above digitized. Why is that so? Why has there not been an effort to do so? What stops us from doing so?

There are almost 30 million Internet Users in Pakistan, about 8 Million Facebook users, that by any measure is a significant number for Pakistan. We put out so much (useless?) content, yet no one has bothered to digitise our cultural heritage.

Almost 12 years ago, I invested in an iPIX Camera Unit + Software and decided to digitize 360×360 degree walkarounds of some of the famous landmarks in Pakistan.

  • I tried with Quaid’s Mausoleum. I was stopped.
  • I approached Mohatta Palace. I was denied permission.
  • I tried digitising Qauid-e-Azam’s Museum. Permission denied.
  • I approached State Bank of Pakistan to digitise their museum and art collection. Request was turned down.
  • I asked PIA to digitise over 100,000+ photographs (some very rare photographs) that they have in their collection. I was denied.

I gave up.

Fast forward to 2013, I would like to attempt to this done again. Before I delve into what I am proposing, let me talk a bit about the technological advancements that have happened to date.

To digitise 100% our museums, famous landmarks, art galleries, etc. it not difficult at all when it comes to technology. In all my previous instances of trying to get to digitise, the issue was turf war, territory, permissions, red-tape, the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) factor. Curators and Trustees have been extremely suspicious and myopic of the noble efforts. If any digitisation has to be done, it has to be done under the Creative Commons domain. This was something not acceptable to many. Can you imagine, Mohatta Palace (Wiki | Official Site) Trustees claiming copyright ownership of all images / videos? This is just not acceptable.

So, what stops us from digitising our great wealth – is ourselves. Technology today is not a barrier. Our own political in bickering and infighting. Our own inflated egos and our own self-centered attitude. This is very sad.

Today high-resolution cameras (in excess of 15+ Megapixels) are very much affordable. The image quality that these cameras put out, is superb. One need not necessarily invest in a DSLR camera to obtain the best results, even compact cameras can suffice. Needless to say, the field of view, color, depth and sharpness of a DSLR captured camera just cannot be compared to regular digital camera. Back in 2000 the best resolution was 2.2 Megapixel. This had its limitations when doing immersive photography or detailed wide field view photography. Today, with the high resolution that is available, the results are nothing short of stunning.  A goog 2.2 Megapixel camera in 2000 would cost about US$ 3,500. Today, a very decent DSLR is about $1,500. If you opt for near-DSLR cameras like say SONY NEX5, these retail for under a $1,000.

Digital video cameras can do an excellent walk-around. Today for an investment of under $1,500, one can truly record 1080p HD quality videos.  Panoramic stitching software is plenty. Heck, even the iPhone now offers panoramic photo stitches.

So how can it be done?

To readdress the problem this time around, I am going to solicit help. Both financial and volunteer help. I believe the right method is to fund a respectable institution, who would be assigned this project. One can easily divide this amongst 3-4 universities (Indus Valley School in Karachi, National College of Arts in Lahore, etc.)

We need to present a more methodical and professional approach to the caretaker guardians of our museums, libraries, art galleries, landmarks, etc. We need to assure them that digitising is for the benefit of our country. I have already secured reasonable funding for the purpose of buying some photography equipment, software and localised high-speed hosting for the same. More help is need from companies like Google, etc. in helping us achieve this target. Google for example can help immensely with their Google Maps solution. Associations like PASHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association) and others can help us connect to the right people and provide valuable credentials and credibility for such a project to be undertaken.

I would like citizens of this country to be able to experience the wealth we have in Arts & Architecture from the comfort of their own computer. World over, 1000s of museums, art galleries, landmarks have been digitised in great detail. There is no reason why we cannot do the same.

If you would like to contribute, or have an idea and/or suggestion on how we can achieve this goal. Please do leave a comment below.

I am hopeful, that in the year 2013, we would be able to digitise quite a lot of our Art & Architectural wealth for us and the world to experience.

This page was last updated on January 17, 2013.

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