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Digital Artefacts:

How People Perceive Tangible Cultural Heritage through Different Media

DIGIFACT aims to improve our understanding of how people perceive artefacts through different media. It will clarify the role of 3D technologies in the perception of archaeological artefacts which are critical to our European heritage, and answer 3 specific research questions:

  • How do people experience artefacts in a museum?
  • How do 3D technologies help overcome problems encountered if artefacts cannot be touched in a museum?
  • How can 3D replicas be used to help improve visitor experience of authenticity and understanding?

This work is an intellectual development of previous studies that analysed how both undergraduate students and expert archaeologists perceive artefacts in different media states and how background knowledge influences this perception; the results of this study reinforced the idea that people think with objects and that interaction with objects is critical for determining their function.

In order to answer the stated questions, the research has collected data on how visitors experience the archaeological record in a museum through different media (tactile experience, visual examination, 3D virtual interaction, etc.). This work is in collaboration with the Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology in Cambridge (MAA), developing a research programme to feed into the redevelopment of the World Archaeology Gallery. In order to explore how people perceive museum artefacts through different media, volunteer participants at the MAA have been videotaped while they interacted with selected artefacts through different forms of media. Speech and gestures have been analysed with methods borrowed from Cognitive and Information Science, to see how the medium (e.g. tactile experience vs interaction with 3D virtual copies) influences the way people describe and understand objects.