|Description||The concept of authenticity is of importance for heritage management, as authenticity is a driving force for tourists to travel to distant places and visit cultural attractions. As such, authenticity is particularly important to museum visitors, with authors confirming that authenticity is the central theme of contemporary museums (Prentice, 2001). Despite the increasing recognition of the value of authenticity and the abundance of recent studies on the topic, authenticity remains a complex concept in need of further discussion and application to different tourism settings.
In the field of museums, academic research has generally focused on object authenticity with most of the work concentrating on demographic characteristics to explain its perception (Wait, 2000). Based on heritage sites, the work of Kolar and Zabkar (2010) fills a gap in the study of cultural attractions and investigates both object and existential authenticity. Whereas authenticity has been initially discussed through an objectivist approach with experts holding the knowledge of whether a museum artefact or exposition is authentic or not (Wang, 1999), recent studies have focused on existential authenticity, a concept based on Heidegger’s philosophy and where tourism activities are a way to find the inner self, reflecting one’s own true personality and character.
The present work is based on a research conducted at the South Tyrolean Museum of Archaeology in Northern Italy. This museum documents the Ancient History of South Tyrol, presenting outstanding local discoveries from Prehistory to the time of Charlemagne (800 AD). Within this museum, the Iceman (commonly known as "Ötzi") occupies a central position in the exhibition area and is without doubt one of the main attractions. The Iceman is a 5000-year-old and fully intact glacier mummy discovered on the Schnals Valley glacier in 1991, together with accompanying clothing and equipment artefacts. This extraordinary discovery provides for unique insights into the life of a man travelling at high alpine altitude in the Chalcolithic Period. Thus, the museum is renowned and mainly visited for the “Iceman” treasure.
The aim of this work is to investigate the perception of authenticity in terms of the history of the Iceman and the customer experiences at the exhibition and how these are related to visitors’ behaviour. The sample of analysis consists of 724 museum visitor responses. A factor analysis is conducted to determine the main components that form the perception of authenticity and experience. Using an ordinary linear squared regression model, we explore the determinants of the components of authenticity. Furthermore, we utilise a Tobit regression to explore how the perception of authenticity affects the length of visits to the museum, as well as the shopping behaviour at the museum shop. Our findings will help museum managers and marketers to better structure and improve promotional campaigns, and to enhance visitors’ experiences.||en_US