Cape Town - Google Maps released the first ever Street View imagery of Robben Island, as well as an audio-visual tour hosted on Google Cultural Institute, on Wednesday, 22 April, five days ahead of South Africa’s Freedom Day.
In an effort to marry history with the future, Google and Robben Island Museum partnered to make this global heritage landmark virtually accessible to the world via the internet, the Museum said in a statement.
Luke McKend, Country Director for Google South Africa, explained the intentional launch of the project five days ahead of Freedom Day in South Africa, is because "Robben Island is a symbol of South Africa’s fight for freedom," and they hope to educate people around the world about this heritage, allowing them to explore the island from any device, anywhere in the world.
The newly launched guided tour of the Island includes a virtual visit to South Africa's first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela’s prison cell and activist Robert Sobukwe’s house. The imagery and tour provides glimpses into the story of the Island and some of its more famous prisoners.
(The inside of Robert Sobukwe’s house, as seen on the Google Cultural Institute)
The partnership hopes to involve and educate younger generations, especially, by using the Google app and new technology to infiltrate classrooms, and social spaces with educational matter.
Former anti-Apartheid prisoner Ahmed Kathrada says, “Not being able to see or interact with children for 20 years was possibly the most difficult thing to endure during my time on the island... There is therefore a kind of poetic justice that children in classrooms all over the world will now be able to visit Robben Island using this technology,” he says.
As part of this project, Google Maps will also develop teaching notes on Robben Island for educators who will be using this interactive tour as an educational tool.
(The inside of Nelson Mandela's prison cell, as seen on the Google Cultural Institute
Derek Hanekom, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, is very optimistic about the partnership, saying “The internet is the world’s most powerful source of information and thanks to Google’s partnership with the Robben Island Museum, more people than ever before have access to this World Heritage Site.
"We hope that this initiative not only allows for the world to reflect on South Africa’s struggle for freedom, but also showcase its beauty,” Hanekom says.
This improvement of the island's visitor experience comes after The Robben Island Museum announced in April this year that they will overhaul the ailing user experience on the island. The app and partnership with Google is but one of the first step in the overall improvement of the island, the museum said.
See: Robben Island Museum to overhaul ailing visitor experience of iconic SA heritage site
Sibongiseni Mkhize, Robben Island Museum CEO, said the educational element of the island will be highlighted with this new partnership. "The reason Robben Island is now a museum is to educate people about the part of South Africa’s heritage that is embodied in the island’s multi-layered history. Together with Google we are making this heritage accessible to people all over the world," he said.
(Mapping Robben Island for Google)
The Robben Island interactive tour can be accessed on mobile phones, from desktops and from Google’s Cultural Institute, where Robben Island Museum will host five exhibits depicting the history for the Island.
The app can be downloaded at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.culturalspot.mobile.robbenislandmuseum
The Nelson Mandela Centre for Memory also confirmed it would update their Cultural Institute exhibits with new layouts and add Street View panoramas of Robben Island.
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