Having a “feel” of the Kohinoor on your smartphone or laptop, thousands of miles away from the Tower of London’s heavily guarded Jewel House, is set to become a reality. The UK-based Sikh Museum Initiative (SMI) is working on a project that will provide you virtual access to the fabled diamond and other Anglo-Sikh relics. Techniques such as 3D modelling and augmented reality are being used to digitise artefacts for mobile and online platforms so that they can be viewed by people worldwide.


The SMI team is building the first-of-its-kind Anglo-Sikh Virtual Museum, a two-year project bankrolled by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It has already been awarded a grant of £65,000 (around Rs 60 lakh). “There are plenty of websites dedicated to Sikh history and culture, but no cyber gallery with interactive features. We want visitors to take a tour of our museum with virtual reality headsets, look closely at the objects from different angles and click on their icons to know about their significance,” says Gurinder Singh Mann, SMI director.


“Even the relics that are lost or inaccessible can be brought alive digitally,” say Mann and 3D artist Taran Singh, who both delivered a lecture on ‘Sikh Relics and Artefacts: From the past to the technological future’ at the ongoing ‘Festival of Thetford and Punjab’ in England. The lecture was part of the commemoration of Maharaja Duleep Singh’s 125th death anniversary.


Mann explains how these items made it to Britain: “After the Anglo-Sikh Wars (1845-49) and the annexation of Punjab, the Sikh treasuries at Lahore and Amritsar were taken over by the East India Company. Governor General Lord Dalhousie entrusted Maharaja Duleep Singh’s guardian John Login with making an inventory of the artefacts. Some objects were sold off, while the most important ones were handpicked by Lord Dalhousie to be sent to England.”


According to Taran Singh, the ability to recreate and share artefacts in digital form and make them available via modern technology will give future generations of Sikhs rare access to pieces of their history.


The SMI is keen on extending the project to other countries, including India, depending on the funding. “Our online museum model has the potential of being replicated in Punjab, which has a rich collection of Sikh relics,” says Mann.


3D wizardry at work, step by step


  1. Reference material on the artefact is collected and examined; if the object is accessible, it is photographed or scanned and then processed digitally
  2. Basic 3D model is created to correct size and proportions of the object
  3. The model is subdivided and extra surface detail is added; realistic texture maps are created to wrap around the surface
  4. It is exported to various detail levels, according to the platform it will be used on (mobile, online)
  5. The model is imported into a game engine; interaction is programmed for touchscreens or input devices

Source: The Tribune