Laura's thesis was titled "Authenticity in 3D: immersive rock art replicas in cultural tourism and heritage" and we're very proud of her!
Congratulations also to supervisors Benjamin Smith and Jo McDonald on another successful completion.
Replicas have long been presented within museum, gallery and heritage site displays. Replicated objects give visitors the chance to see pieces unavailable for display, either because the originals are held elsewhere or because the original cannot be displayed due to conservation or other concerns. Replicas of sites are made for reasons such as to allow access to a place that has been destroyed or that has been closed to the public; they allow people to see sites that they would not see otherwise. It is likely that these replicated objects and sites are experienced differently to the originals on which they are based. However, this is an under-researched topic.
Little is known about how these replicated objects and places are experienced by visiting audiences and how these experiences are shaped through impressions and perceptions. This is particularly evident for replicated rock art sites. My focus in this thesis is on replicated rock art sites in France, replicas which are attended by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Using Actor-Network theory, visitor interviews and observation, this thesis reconstructs the perceptions that shape the visitor experience at the replicas of Lascaux II and Chauvet Cave 2. My findings suggest that the visitor experience is shaped as much by visitor preconceptions as by what is provided and experienced within the rock art replica. My results also demonstrate that, at immersive rock art replicas, the relationships between conceptions of fakeness and authenticity are complex. My conclusions provide clear evidence of what is appreciated and not appreciated by visitors at these two sites and these findings have profound implications for improving the visitor experience at these two sites and for planning of the use of replicas at other sites around the world.