Heritage Artefacts in the COVID-19 Era: The Aura and Authenticity of 3D Models

Thiago Minete Cardozo, Costas Papadopoulos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Museums have been increasingly investing in their digital presence. This became more pressing during the COVID-19 pandemic since heritage institutions had, on the one hand, to temporarily close their doors to visitors while, on the other, find ways to communicate their collections to the public. Virtual tours, revamped websites, and 3D models of cultural artefacts were only a few of the means that museums devised to create alternative ways of digital engagement and counteract the physical and social distancing measures. Although 3D models and collections provide novel ways to interact, visualise, and comprehend the materiality and sensoriality of physical objects, their mediation in digital forms misses essential elements that contribute to (virtual) visitor/user experience. This article explores three-dimensional digitisations of museum artefacts, particularly problematising their aura and authenticity in comparison to their physical counterparts. Building on several studies that have problematised these two concepts, this article establishes an exploratory framework aimed at evaluating the experience of aura and authenticity in 3D digitisations. This exploration allowed us to conclude that even though some aspects of aura and authenticity are intrinsically related to the physicality and materiality of the original, 3D models can still manifest aura and authenticity, as long as a series of parameters, including multimodal contextualisation, interactivity, and affective experiences are facilitated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-539
Number of pages21
JournalOpen Archaeology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2021


  • 3d models
  • aura
  • authenticity
  • cultural heritage
  • qualitative interviews
  • remediation
  • survey
  • technological mediation
  • 3D models

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