Timescape Kolkata, an augmented reality app developed by the ETIC project, launched earlier this week at the Victoria Memorial Hall. The innovative app allows iOS and Android phone users to experience the antiquated city through photographs produced by Frederick Fiebig, W.G Stretton and Company and the reputable Bourne and Shepherd.
Once Timescape (www.time-scape.org) is downloaded from here, users can explore rare archival images and data about heritage sites in Kolkata. As you walk through the city, views will be ‘augmented’ by a corresponding nineteenth century photograph taken at the exact site. Another click or with a single swipe a host of archival information including sounds and histories will be available.
The idea germinated following the UGC-UKIERI funded ETIC Liverpool conference held last year. In the School of the Arts library, after negotiating theories of the contemporary city, a series of questions emerged. What if Frederick Fiebig’s handpainted candid Calcutta photographs taken from the mid 1840s, viewed at an earlier British Library Summer seminar, could be incorporated into an app? Could these historic images be embedded into a GPS map to give users a layered interactive perspective of Kolkata today?
As Supriya Chaudhuri stated, the app reinforces the notion of cities as ‘visualized spaces, appearing before our eyes as seen, remembered, or projected.’ Enabled by a generous grant from the University of Liverpool Knowledge Exchange Fund, the archival resources of the British Library’s Photographic Collection in collaboration with Jadavpur University, the app, as John Falconer, Lead Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs reflected,
‘brings past and present dramatically together and brings history to life in an immersive and absorbing way. It’s exciting to see the Library’s collections being harnessed to digital technology in ways which will allow new audiences to engage with this material creatively.’
Given the success of the launch and the supporting symposium at Jadavpur University with leading urban theorists and historians including contributions from Professors Miki Desai (CEPT Ahmedabad), Snehanshu Mukherji (Architect; Visiting Faculty,SPA Delhi), Swapan Chakravorty (Presidency University), Jonathan Gil Harris (Ashoka University) and Dhir Sarangi (Jawaharlal Nehru University), it is little wonder the national Indian press has spent the week embracing the views of the ‘past in the present’.
As Professor Nandini Das of the English Department, University of Liverpool said, ‘We look forward to watching the app develop. Given the successful framework that has been achieved, we hope to continue our work with the British Library, opening its collection further across Calcutta and cities beyond.’
The international, interdisciplinary team spanning four institutions comprises:
University of Liverpool
Professor Nandini Das – Primary Investigator
Dr Martin Winchester – Developer
Dr Iain Jackson – Associate
Cleo Roberts – Publicity
Professor Supriya Chaudhuri – Lead coordinator
Sujaan Mukerjee – Research Assistant
Kawshik Ananda Kirtania – Research Assistant
Chandrima Banerjee, Kalpan Mitra, Disha Raychaudhuri – Volunteers
Victoria Memorial Hall
Dr Jayanta Sengupta
 Chaudhuri, S. Visualising the City Symposium Concept Note 28th November 2015