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Exhibition at Nehru Memorial: Pose for photo with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, see PV Narasimha Rao deliver speech

Written by Sowmiya Ashok
| New Delhi |
Published: December 26, 2017 2:04 am

An augmented reality exhibit at the NMML.

It is a stark division on the first floor. One half frozen by time, the other a computer-generated world with floating holograms. Across the hall from where India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru met visitors, worked late into the night and finally breathed his last, two men who went on to become Prime Ministers in later years interact with visitors in a high-tech trial run for a museum on all of India’s Prime Ministers.

“It is the first step towards a 21st-century museum of Prime Ministers. Not one built with brick and mortar, but an interactive experience,” Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) Director Shakti Sinha told The Indian Express.

A joint exhibition, ‘The Pathfinders’, on India’s ninth and tenth Prime Ministers, P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, opened at NMML in Teen Murti House on Monday. Till January 25 next year, visitors can pose for a photograph with Vajpayee at the Pokhran nuclear test site or with Rao outside Parliament House. Or watch holograms of both men deliver important speeches to the nation or in Parliament.

The exhibition was inaugurated to coincide with ‘Good Governance Day’ to mark Vajpayee’s birthday. He turned 93 on Monday, and was greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah among several others. “Visited Atalji to convey birthday greetings to him. Spent time with his family as well,” Modi posted on Twitter. Earlier, he said Vajpayee’s phenomenal and visionary leadership “further raised our prestige at the world stage. I pray for his good health.”

Naming the exhibition ‘Pathfinders’ was deliberate, said organisers, crediting both Rao and Vajpayee for setting India on a “different path” economically, politically and internationally. “Rao was such a significant PM who has largely disappeared from public consciousness. We will highlight others in the new year — V P Singh, Charan Singh, Morarji Desai…,” said Sinha.

“The brief handed to us by NMML asked us to focus on Rao and Vajpayee,” said Siddharth Bathla, co-founder of Design Factory India that designed the exhibition. “The brief was very particular. They wanted to take the major parties into consideration and focus on Prime Ministers from recent times, but not as far back as Nehru,” he said.

Piles of newspapers serve as props — 365 newspapers make a pile. On top of each is a name plate, one each for every one of India’s Prime Ministers. This makes up the first room of the exhibit.

“These were Prime Ministers who also mainly communicated with the common man through newspapers,” said Bathla. “The visitors are largely young students. The idea was to first entertain them and then inform them,” he said about the layout of the exhibition.

Sinha said the exhibition will be updated over the next month. “Holograms only work if seen at eye level, but in the 1990s and early 2000s the footage did not consider such things,” he said.

Earlier this year, the NMML executive council had proposed a “state of the art museum” that should be “prominent amongst Delhi’s cityscape and reflective of a developing India… Emphasis should be on digital and technology-based interfaces,” it had said.

The Indian Express had earlier reported that Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma had said: “Thousands of people have contributed to the making of modern India. But the Congress believed that it’s only for showcasing Nehru or his family. We have democratised NMML.”

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