The Hindu (Tiruchirapalli)

The centuries-old prison complex in Goa has been tranformed into a modern centre of history and culture

- Shailaja Tripathi

here is so much more to Goa than just beaches, shacks and its party scene. With a history so eventful, Goa has many untold stories to tell. And, Aguad Interactiv­e Museum: The Land, The People, and The Struggle is an effort in that direction. The recentlyla­unched museum in Sinquerim is set in a decommissi­oned prison and narrates the story of the former Portuguese colony in various blocks — landmarks and their significan­ce, freedom fighters and their struggle, prehistori­c findings, and the rich biodiversi­ty of Goa.

“The Aguada Fort and Jail Complex is one of Goa’s most recognisab­le landmarks. It has been around for over 400 years. The jail complex moved to a new location in 20152016, and the erstwhile one has almost been reinvented as a repository of Goa’s history. This is important because while we have grown up with a good understand­ing of British history, Portuguese history is something that most only have

Tperiphera­l knowledge of.

“The Museum showcases the history of the jail, of Goa from well before the Portuguese, the liberation movement that culminated in 1961, to today’s Goa,” says Naveen Chopra, group CEO, Waterfront Experience­s, which is responsibl­e for managing Aguad.

Commission­ed by the Goa Tourism Developmen­t Corporatio­n (GTDC) and designed and conceptual­ised by Oorja Interactiv­e and Delta Technologi­es, the Aguad

Interactiv­e Museum, uses technology as a tool for storytelli­ng. The narrative unfolds through 3D interactiv­e maps, innovative Story Vending Machines, holographi­c installati­ons and gamified time machines. There are 35 kiosks across three rooms.

The first, Goa — The Land, allows visitors to see famous sites and gives them the chance to use the “Discover Goa” console to learn about lesserknow­n facts about the city. Short story excerpts are dispensed by the inventive Story Vending Machine.

Gamified time machine

The second room, Goa — The Struggle, consists of the gamified Time Machine that provides visitors insights into historical dates with a simple pull of a lever. The interactiv­e Freedom Fighters Wall enables visitors to connect with the stories of freedom fighters, while the ‘Message In A Bottle’ exhibit allows visitors to know indepth the thoughts of the freedom fighters.

Vinayak Nayak, CEO, Delta Technologi­es, who has curated the show says, “There is an entire wall dedicated to freedom fighters such as T.B. Cunha and Libia Lobo. And on the opposite side, we have all the details of Operation Vijay — the “armed action” involving air, sea and land strikes to liberate Goa from the Portuguese rule. Visitors can also pay tribute by pressing a button — flowers will fall at the feet of the freedom fighters. People spend time here to read what everyone here has done for the freedom struggle.”

In order to end press censorship in Portuguese­colonised Goa, Libia Lobo and fellow freedom fighter Vaman Sardesai founded the undergroun­d radio stations Voz de Liberdade (in Portuguese), Goenche Sadvonecho Awaz (in Konkani), and the “Voice of Freedom” (in English).

Informativ­e kiosks

In the third room, Goa — The People, viewers are given a glimpse of Goa’s ethnograph­y and anthropolo­gy. It features captivatin­g kiosks such as ‘Once

Upon a Time’, which explores prehistori­c findings, ‘Goenkar’, for discoverin­g prominent Goans, and the soulful ‘Music of Goa’. Visitors can also witness Goa’s cultural vision in ‘Goa 2035’, through a captivatin­g holographi­c installati­on.

Explaining the need for the museum to be without any tangible artefacts, Naveen says: “This place never was a museum. It was always a jail. It was the port and customs house; and a museum by itself would require artefacts. In this case, the digital format is probably the best way to do it. Being digital also helps, as our audience is younger and familiar with digital formats.”

Expert panel

According to Naveen, the informatio­n put out has been factchecke­d by historians, scholars, and experts such as Hansel Vaz for Feni and Parag Rangnekar for biodiversi­ty. “If we ever need to change content, it’s easy to do. If there’s something that requires a tweak, it can be done overnight. We have 32 kiosks, and each tells a story, in about 5070 slides. We have been able to use this space very effectivel­y. Physical artefacts might have needed ten times this space,” he adds.

The team has also placed inbuilt metrics to gauge the number of visitors and those who have actually gone through the slides. The museum also gives handouts to visitors so that they carry something tangible from their visit. “We also have pledges that are mailed to visitors at a later date. An email/SMS goes to them saying you have pledged to not use plastic bottles, etc. We have got about 25 types of pledges,” says Vinayak.

The museum also houses a cafe, a restaurant, a tea shop and a jettybar.

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