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Representing Difficult Histories in the museum: Virtual and Augmented Reality as Tools for Communicating Difficult and Dissonant Histories.

Pickard, Zoë Faye (2022) Representing Difficult Histories in the museum: Virtual and Augmented Reality as Tools for Communicating Difficult and Dissonant Histories. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Museums have often avoided displaying difficult and controversial historical subject matters in favor of more commercial and celebratory topics. The display of these difficult histories has now become a significant topic of debate within the museum community; the shift in this emphasis coincides with a rise in dark tourism and a movement by the museum to reach the visitor on a more personal level. Representing history through the stories of individuals to promote personal meaning-making, also brings into focus the responsibility of displaying a more holistic representation of the lived past. This representation of the problematic elements of the past presents a unique set of considerations and opportunities that need to be explored.
As museums develop these aspects of interpretation, and new opportunities afforded by technological advancement emerge, it is vital to investigate how visitors interact with information in this environment. Within the current information climate, the boundaries between library science, archive, and museum fields have become blurred. The use of emergent technologies is a particularly well-suited space to utilize human information interaction theory to explore the issues relating to visitor or user experience.
This thesis investigates the influence and potential impact that display medium has on information interactions within this context. Specifically, how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) may influence human information interactions with difficult historical topics. A qualitative approach has been employed to explore these interactions with a focus on the visitor’s perceptions of their experiences of, and with, difficult histories. This research has identified ways in which the use of these technologies’ affects visitor responses to displays of difficult histories. Visitors across the full data set communicated the beneficial nature of both VR and AR in the understanding and experience of difficult topics.
This research provides a foundation for further research which could lead to the development of professional practice guidelines for the use of VR and AR in enhancing visitor responses and understanding. This has the potential to bridge the information or “otherness” gap which often exists in this context.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Pickard, Zoë Fayezfp2@pitt.eduzfp20000-0002-0080-6608
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorCurrier, Jameskcurrier@pitt.edukcurrier
Committee MemberLangmead, Alisonadlangmead@pitt.eduadlangmead
Committee MemberBiehl, Jacobbiehl@pitt.edubiehl
Committee MemberBowler, Leannelbowler@pratt.edulbowler
Date: 6 September 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 12 July 2022
Approval Date: 6 September 2022
Submission Date: 29 August 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 225
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Computing and Information > Library and Information Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: VR, AR, Difficult histories, dark tourism, human information interaction, information behavior,
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2022 20:34
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2022 20:34


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