Case Study: Mahatma Gandhi Museum, India

Gandhi Museum Main Image
Projection mapping at Mahatma Gandhi Museum, India

Hurrairah bin Sohail speaks to Rhino Engineers and follows the transformation of Mohandas Gandhi High School in Rajkot, India into Mahatma Gandhi Museum.

Mohandas Gandhi High School has had a long and storied history. Founded in 1853, it started life as Rajkot English School before being renamed Alfred High School 1907. But after India gained its independence in 1947 the school’s name was changed to honour its most famous graduate, Mahatma Gandhi.

In 2017, Mohandas Gandhi High School was closed for conversion into the Mahatma Gandhi Museum. The project was initiated by the Rajkot Municipal Corporation, Government of Gujrat in association with the Gujrat Tourism Department. Funding was provided by the Government of India under the ‘Swadesh Darshan’ scheme which seeks to develop integrated visitor attractions to promote tourism in the country.

Vama Communications was assigned the turnkey contract to help with the transformation of the school. Rhino Engineers was engaged as the lead turnkey consultant for the project. A total of approximately USD 3.5 million was allocated for the entire project which was completed in late 2018.

Rhino Engineers, was selected as a consultant for the project after Rajkot Municipal Corporation put the works out to open public tender.

Narendra Naidu, CMD of Rhino Engineers, details the work that fell under his remit: “[We were hired] as a turnkey consultant for the design, drawings, supervision, verification of work and certification of payment to agencies for heritage conservation and restoration of existing building, architecture, interior, civil, electrical, HVAC, MEP and pro AV systems.

“The client wanted to convert the school into a world class museum, depicting the entire life of Gandhi right from his childhood to his ultimate message for the world. We had to convert 38 classrooms, two big halls and the existing school building. It was decided to restore the heritage building and develop the museum along with a VIP lounge, kids' zone and food court along with an ultra-modern ticketing window connected to a mobile app and an up-to-date website."

Before and during the project, Rhino Engineers collaborated with a range of specialists to ensure that the end product met the high expectations of the client. Naidu details: “We worked together with professionals from various fields, like heritage conservators, architects and HVAC system specialists and decided the project according to the client’s requirements.

In addition, we also formed a committee comprising three ‘Gandhi subject experts’ who validated the content that would be displayed by the AV systems. “The client did not want Gandhi’s life to be illustrated by just exhibits, artefacts, murals and dioramas. They also wanted to incorporate interactive displays, 3D interactive projection and projection mapping. There was also an element of gamification, as the museum wanted children to learn about the teachings of Gandhi by the way of games.”

The centrepiece of the Mahatma Gandhi Museum is a 3D projection mapping display with 25 minutes of content that is shown in the courtyard of the school and covers the 17m by 46m building façade. Panasonic projectors display visuals which are processed on a Mac by Mad Mapper software. Video signals are transmitted via HDMI and DisplayPort.

Naidu comments: “Mahatma Gandhi Museum wanted a visual spectacle to set itself apart. For this purpose, the outdoor video projection mapping display was critical as it was going to serve as the main event. We designed the system to deliver premium output while still being able to operate in a standalone configuration.”

Audio to accompany the projection mapping uses four Bose Panaray speakers and four Bose Freespace DS 100SE loudspeakers in conjunction with a Bose MB 24WR subwoofer and Bose PM8500 amplifier. Audio is managed by a Yamaha MG06 mixer.

The audio system for the courtyard posed a challenge as Naidu explains: “The Mahatma Gandhi Museum is a heritage building which meant that we couldn’t go ahead and start drilling holes anywhere we pleased. This resulted in an interesting challenge as we couldn’t mount the subwoofer. After careful consideration we decided on a design where the subwoofer could be placed on the floor but in a location that would not compromise quality in any way.”

In addition to the projection mapping display in the courtyard, the classrooms of the old school have been converted into rooms that showcase the life of Gandhi. Naidu says: “We really wanted to present the full story and ensure that we delivered a multi-room audio visual museum based on historical events on the life of Mahatma Gandhi.”

From the courtyard to the AV systems in the rooms, the equipment changes to suit the space. In rooms where display technology was required, Panasonic PT-VW540 or PT- EZ12K projectors are used. Panasonic flat panel displays are also employed to act as signage and to provide an element of interactivity where it is required.

Audio is provided by Apart Audio Mask4, Mask8 and Mask12 speakers paired with Apart Audio Concept1 or Revamp2600 amplifiers as the situation dictated.

Yamaha mixers are also pressed into action when required.

Naidu explains the variety of audio systems deployed across the museum: “When it came to sound, our main aim was intelligible audio performance and an adequate amount of sound. The sound pressure level has to be in accordance with the size of the room. Hence we matched different speakers with different spaces.”

To conclude, Naidu reiterates the significance of the project: “This isn’t just a museum. Gandhi spent an important part of the formative years of his life at this school. This building must have witnessed many incidents in Mahatma Gandhi’s life that moulded him and hence through him moulded the history of this country. And now these classrooms are retelling these tales using exhibits and digital presentations. From the Pietermaritzburg train journey in 1893 in South Africa when Barrister Gandhi was thrown off the train to the momentous moments in his life that marked the beginning of a unique method of resistance known as ‘Satyagraha’. Spread across 40 rooms on two floors, this museum captures every nuance of Gandhi’s philosophy and puts it in the context of history.”