Virtual reality as a versatile tool for research, dissemination and mediation in the humanities


  • Paul François Laboratoire d’Archéologie Médiévale et Moderne en Méditerranée
  • Jeffrey Leichman Louisiana State University
  • Florent Laroche Laboratoire des Sciences du Numérique de Nantes
  • Françoise Rubellin Université de Nantes



history, research, mediation, theatre, restitution, digital reconstruction


The VESPACE project aims to revive an evening of theatre at the Foire Saint-Germain in Paris in the 18th century, by recreating spaces, atmospheres and theatrical entertainment in virtual reality. The venues of this fair have disappeared without leaving any archaeological traces, so their digital reconstruction requires the use of many different sources, including the expertise of historians, historians of theatre and literature. In this article, we present how we have used video game creation tools to enable the use of virtual reality in three key stages of research in the human sciences and particularly in history or archaeology: preliminary research, scientific dissemination and mediation with the general public. In particular, we detail the methodology used to design a three-dimensional (3D) model that is suitable for both research and virtual reality visualization, meets the standards of scientific work regarding precision and accuracy, and the requirements of a real-time display. This model becomes an environment in which experts can be immersed within their fields of research and expertise, and thus extract knowledge reinforcing the model created –through comments, serendipity and new perspectives– while enabling a multidisciplinary workflow. We also present our tool for annotating and consulting sources, relationships and hypotheses in immersion, called PROUVÉ. This tool is designed to make the virtual reality experience go beyond a simple image and to convey scientific information and theories in the same way an article or a monograph does. Finally, this article offers preliminary feedback on the use of our solutions with three target audiences: the researchers from our team, the broader theatre expert community and the general public.


• Immersive Virtual Reality is used to enhance the digital reconstruction of an 18th-century theatre, by allowing experts to dive into their research topic.

• Virtual Reality (VR) can also be used to disseminate the digital model through the scientific community and beyond while giving access to all kinds of sources that were used to build it.

• A quick survey shows that VR is a powerful tool to share theories and interpretations related to archaeological or historical tri-dimensional data.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Jeffrey Leichman, Louisiana State University

French Studies Dpt.

Françoise Rubellin, Université de Nantes

Centre d’Etude des Théâtres Forains et Italiens


Abiven, M.-M., Laubé, S., Querrec, R., Garlatti, S., Rohou, B., Courgeon, M., Vourch, R., & Roué, J.-P. (2018). Histoire des paysages portuaires et humanités numériques. Retrieved Jan 3, 2021, from

Barreau, J.-B., Esnault, E., Foucher, J., Six, M., & Le Faou, C. (2020). 3D modelling of a 15th century city gate of Rennes : Portes Mordelaises. Virtual Archaeology Review, 11(22), 41-55.

Barreau, J.-B., Nouviale, F., Gaugne, R., Bernard, Y., Llinares, S., & Gouranton, V. (2015). An immersive virtual sailing on the 18th-century ship Le Boullongne. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 24(3), 201-219.

Bertino, E., Franzoni, S., Mazzoleni, P., Mussio, P., & Valtoline, S. (2006). Integration of virtual reality and database systems for cultural heritage dissemination. International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering, 2(5), 307-316.

Brooke, J. (1986). SUS - A quick and dirty usability scale. Redhatch Consulting Ltd.

Bruno, F., Bruno, S., De Sensi, G., Luchi, M.-L., Mancuso, S., Muzzupappa, M. (2010). From 3D reconstruction to virtual reality: A complete methodology for digital archaeological exhibition. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 11(1), 42-49.

Christou, C., Angus, C., Loscos, C., Dettori, A., & Roussou, M. (2006). A Versatile Large-Scale Multimodal VR System for Cultural Heritage Visualization. VRST’06. VRST’06, Limassol, 133-140.

Clarke, J. (2017). Back to Black : Variable Lighting Levels on the Seventeenth-Century French Stage, Lavoisier and the Enigma of La Pierre philosophale. Insights, 10(2), 2-13.

Clergeaud, D., & Guitton, P. (2017). Design of an annotation system for taking notes in virtual reality. 3DTV Conference 2017: Research and Applications in Future 3D Media. 3DTV Conference 2017: Research and Applications in Future 3D Media, Copenhague, 4-8.

Cotteleer, M. J., Trouton, S., & Dobner, E. (2016). 3D opportunity and the digital thread. Deloitte University Press.

Delevoie, C., & Vergnieux, R. (2015). Virtual Retrospect 2013. Ausonius Éditions.

Delgado, J. M. D., Oyedele, L., Demian, P., & Beach, T. (2020). A research agenda for augmented and virtual reality in architecture, engineering and construction. Advanced Engineering Informatics, 45, 1-21.

Dominic, J., & Robb, A. (2020). Exploring Effects of Screen-Fixed and World-Fixed Annotation on Navigation in Virtual Reality. IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces. IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, 607-615.

Falconer, L., Burden, D., Cleal, R., Hoyte, R., Phelps, P., Slawson, N., Snashall, N., & Welham, K. (2020). Virtual Avebury : exploring sense of place in a virtual archaeology simulation. Virtual Archaeology Review, 11(23), 50-62.

François, P. (2021). La Foire Saint-Germain vers 1770 : Images et mutations des lieux de spectacle. Actes de la journée d’études Permanences et mutations des espaces du spectacle vivant dans la ville (de 1750 à nos jours). Permanences et mutations des espaces du spectacle vivant dans la ville (de 1750 à nos jours), Bordeaux. In press.

François, P., Laroche, F., Rubellin, F., & Leichman, J. (2019). Remonter le temps pour comprendre le passé: L’immersion virtuelle au service des historiens. Conférence Extraction et Gestion de Connaissances 2019 EGC 2019. Conférence Extraction et Gestion de Connaissances EGC 2019, Metz.

Gaugne, R., Gouranton, V., Dumont, G., Chauffaut, A., & Arnaldi, B. (2014). Immersia, an open immersive infrastructure: Doing archaeology in virtual reality. Archeologia e Calcolatori, 5, 180-189.

Guerreiro, J., Medeiros, D., Mendes, D., Sousa, M., Jorge, J., Raposo, A., & Santos, I. (2014). Beyond Post-It : Structured Multimedia Annotations for Collaborative VEs. International Conference on Artificial Reality and Telexistence. Eurographics Symposium on Virtual Environments, 55-62.

Hardesty, J. L. (2014). Exhibiting library collections online: Omeka in context. New Library World, 115(3/4), 75–86.

Hvass, J., Larsen, O., Vendelbo, K., Nilsson, N., Nordahl, R., & Serafin, S. (2017). Visual Realism and Presence in a Virtual Reality Game. 3DTV Conference 2017: Research and Applications in Future 3D Media. 3DTV Conference 2017: Research and Applications in Future 3D Media, Copenhague.

ICOMOS (2017). Principles of Seville. International Principles of Virtual Archaeology.

Kilteni, K., Groten, R., & Slater, M. (2012). The Sense of Embodiment in Virtual Reality. PRESENCE: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 21(4), 373-387.

Krasniewicz, L. (2000). Immersive imaging technologies for archaeological research. Virtual Reality in Archaeology, 843, 163 169.

Laroche, F. (2017). KLM for Heritage [Mémoire d’Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches]. Université de Nantes.

Laubé, S., Querrec, R., Abiven, M. M., & Garlatti, S. (2018). Lab In Virtuo: Un environnement Virtuel Intelligent (EVI) participatif dédié à l'histoire et aux patrimoines des paysages culturels industriels. DHNord2018 : Matérialités de la recherche en sciences humaines et sociales, Lille, France.

Mack, Ch. A. (2018). How to write a Good Scientific Paper. SPIE.

Manuel, A. (2016). Annotation sémantique 2D/3D d’images spatialisées pour la documentation et l’analyse d’objets patrimoniaux. PhD thesis under the supervision of De Luca, L. Arts et Métiers ParisTech.

Montagud, M., Segura-Garcia, J., De Rus, A., & Fayos Jordán, R. (2020). Towards an Immersive and Accessible Virtual Reconstruction of Theaters from the Early Modern: Bringing Back Cultural Heritage from the Past. In International Conference on Interactive Media Experiences (pp. 143-147). Cornella.

Montandon, A. (1994). Pour une Histoire des traités de savoir-vivre en Europe. Université Blaise Pascal.

Martin, I. (2002). Le théâte de la Foire, des tréteaux aux boulevards. Voltaire Foundation.

Morris, R. V. (2001). How teachers can conduct historical reenactments in their own schools. Childhood Education, 4(77), 196-203.

Mileto, C., Vegas, F., Cristini, V., & Cabezos Bernal, P. M. (2021). Burial architecture. 3D dissemination study for a selection of Byzantine graves. Virtual Archaeology Review, 12(24), 90-98.

Patte, P. (1782). Essai sur l’architecture théâtrale. Moutard.

Reverdy-Médélice, I. (2012). La Valorisation du patrimoine: problèmes méthodologiques, limites et enjeux de la restitution archéologique et historique. PhD thesis under the supervision of Lamboley, J.-L. Université de Grenoble.

Rua, H., & Alvito, P. (2011). Living the past: 3D models, virtual reality and game engines as tools for supporting archaeology and the reconstruction of cultural heritage in the case-study of the Roman villa of Casal de Freiria. Journal of Archaeological Science, 38, 3296-3308.

Shehade, M., & Stylianou-Lambert, T. (2020). Virtual Reality in Museums: Exploring the Experiences of Museum Professionals. Applied Sciences, 10(11), 4031-4051.

Sierra, A., de Prado, G., Ruiz Soler, I., & Codina, F. (2017). Virtual Reality and Archaeological Reconstruction: Be There, Back Then. MW17: Museums and the Web 2017. MW17: Museums and the Web 2017, Cleveland.

Takeuchi, H., & Nonaka, I. 2004. Hitotsubashi on Knowledge Management. John Wiley and Sons.

Viaud-Delmon, I. (2007). Corps, action et cognition : la réalité virtuelle au défi des sciences cognitives. Intellectica-La revue de l’Association pour la Recherche sur les sciences de la Cognition (ARCo), 45, 37-58.




How to Cite

François, P., Leichman, J., Laroche, F., & Rubellin, F. (2021). Virtual reality as a versatile tool for research, dissemination and mediation in the humanities. Virtual Archaeology Review, 12(25), 1–15.