Lee Davidson


PhD Monash, BA (Hons) History, Otago, and MA (Applied) Recreation and Leisure Studies, Victoria.

Career summary

Dr Lee Davidson has been teaching on the Museum and Heritage Studies programme and its predecessor, Recreation and Leisure Studies, since 1998. Previously she worked in various positions within the recreation, tourism and conservation sectors. Her current research and teaching includes visitor studies (theory and methods); cultural diplomacy, touring exhibitions and intercultural museum practice; natural heritage; leisure and heritage tourism (history, theory and contemporary practice) and sustainable development.

Recently she led the development of the annual National Museum Visitor Survey for Museums Aotearoa. Currently she is involved in two transnational collaborative projects on touring exhibitions from New Zealand, the first of their kind to examine institutional intentions and visitor responses to international exhibitions in New Zealand, Australia, France, Mexico, and Quebec.

Lee’s interdisciplinary work has been published in journals such as Leisure Sciences, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, International Journal of Travel Research and Visitor Studies, and she has been invited to contribute chapters to volumes by major publishers across the fields of museum studies, leisure, tourism and anthropology. Highlights include her co-authored book Serious Leisure and Nature (with Robert A Stebbins), published by Palgrave in 2011, and a chapter on visitor studies in the forthcoming volume Museum Practice (published by Wiley-Blackwell and edited by Conal McCarthy). See below for more details.

Lee writes about her recent research and writing in her Museums & international Touring Exhibitions blog.

Lee is an experienced postgraduate supervisor with students at both masters and PhD level undertaking research projects on a wide range of topics. For details of past and current student supervision, see below.

Selected publications


Lee Davidson & Leticia Pérez-Castellanos (2019) Cosmopolitan Ambassadors: International exhibitions, cultural diplomacy and the intercultural museum. Vernon Press. https://vernonpress.com/book/248

Peter Alsop, Dave Bamford & Lee Davidson (2018) Scenic Playground: The story behind New Zealand’s mountain tourism. Wellington: Te Papa Press. Info about the book: https://www.tepapa.govt.nz/about/te-papa-press/history-books/scenic-playground-story-behind-new-zealands-mountain-tourism; buy it here: http://www.unitybooksonline.co.nz/Default.aspx?A=ProductSearch&ID=/search-results

Davidson, L, & Stebbins, R.A. (2011). Serious leisure and nature: Sustainable consumption in the outdoors. Houndmills, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Book chapters

Davidson, L. (2015) ‘Visitor studies: Towards a culture of reflective practice and critical museology for the visitor-centred museum’, In Conal McCarthy (Ed) Museum Practice. Volume 4 in the series International Handbooks of Museum Studies. General editors Sharon Macdonald and Helen Rees Leahy. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell. (pp503-527)

Davidson, L. (forthcoming) ‘Border crossings and cross-cultural encounters in the touring exhibition: An Aotearoa New Zealand – Mexico exchange’, In Eveline Dürr & Philipp Schorch (Eds) Transpacific Americas: Encounters and Engagements between the Americas and the South Pacific. Routledge.

Fullagar, S. & Davidson, L. (forthcoming) ‘Leisure in Australia and New Zealand’, in Leisure Matters: The State and Future of Leisure Studies, Edited by: Gordon Walker, David Scott, & Monika Stodolska. Venture Publishing Inc., State College, PA.

Davidson, L. (forthcoming) ‘The narrative construction of self through a commitment to mountaineering’, in Ghazali Musa, James Higham, & Anna Thompson-Carr (Eds) Mountaineering Tourism. Routledge.

Davidson, L., & Crenn, G. (2014). Intercultural dialogue and the touring exhibition: A case study of a Māori exhibition in the Northern Hemisphere. In H. Crescini & O. Vileikis (Eds.), Understanding Each Other’s Heritage - Challenges for Heritage Communication in a Globalized World (pp. 102-122). Cottbus, Germany: Brandenburg University of Technology.

Davidson, L. (2012) ‘Publicising peaks: Early promotion of mountain tourism’, in Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism, Edited by: Peter Alsop, Craig Potton Pub., Nelson, NZ.

Davidson, L. (2012) ‘Inclusiveness, relevancy and engagement: Empowering leisure at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa’, in Empowering the Visitor: Process, Progress, Protest. ICOFOM Study Series – ISS 41; Edited by: Jennifer Harris, Lynn Maranda & Suzanne Nash. pp. 159-171.

Davidson, L. (2011) ‘On nature’s terms: Preserving the practice of traditional backcountry recreation in New Zealand’s National Parks’, In Dorfman, E. (Ed) Intangible Natural Heritage: New perspectives on natural objects. New York: Routledge. pp105-124

Davidson, L. (2008) Travelling Light in Hostile Country: Mountaineering, Commitment and the Leisure Lifestyle. In J. Caudwell, S. Redhead & A. Tomlinson (Eds.), Relocating the Leisure Society: Media, consumption and spaces. Eastbourne, UK: LSA Publication No. 101. pp. 77-95.

Refereed journal articles

Davidson, L. & Sahli, M. (2015) ‘Foreign direct investment in tourism, poverty alleviation, and sustainable development: a review of the Gambian hotel sector’, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 23(2), 167-187.

Davidson, L. (2014) ‘Mountain magic: Mountaineering in North-West Otago, 1882-1940,’ Environment and Nature in New Zealand, 9 (1) (February 2014).

Carey, S., Davidson, L. & M. Sahli (2013) ‘Capital city museums and tourism flows: an empirical study of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa’, International Journal of Travel Research, 15, 554–569.

Davidson, L. (2012) ‘The calculable and the incalculable: Narratives of safety and danger in the mountains’, Leisure Sciences, 34(4), 298-313

Davidson, L & Sibley, P. (2011) ‘Audiences at the ‘new’ museum: Visitor commitment, diversity and leisure at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa’, Visitor Studies 14(2), 176-194.

Davidson, L. (2008) Tragedy in the Adventure Playground: Media Representations of Mountaineering Accidents in New Zealand, Leisure Studies, 27(1): 3-19.

Davidson, L. (2002) The Spirit of the Hills: Mountaineering in Northwest Otago, New Zealand 1882-1940, Tourism Geographies, 4 (1): 44-61.

Davidson, L. (2001) Qualitative research and making meaning from adventure: A case study of boys experiences of outdoor education at school, Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, 1 (2):11-20.

Full conference papers

Davidson, L. & L. Pérez (2014) ‘Aztecs in Oceania: Researching cross-cultural encounters in an international travelling exhibition/ Los Aztecas En Oceanía: Una investigación sobre encuentros interculturales en exposiciones internacionales’, Education and Communication in Museums and Heritage Sites: 8th Annual Seminar of Latin American Museology (Mexico City: October 2014).

Davidson, L. & Sahli, M. (2013) ‘Tourism investment and sustainable development: A comparative study of The Gambian hotel sector’, BEST EN Think Tank XIII: Engaging Communities in Sustainable Tourism Development, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 2013, (pp. 89-114).


Davidson, L. (2014) ‘Museums and Public Value: Creating Sustainable Futures’, Museum Worlds: Advances in Research 2, 250-252.

Davidson, L. (2014) ‘Playing in the Bush: Recreation and National Parks in New South Wales’, Australian Historical Studies, 45:1, 160-161.


Current PhDs

Michele Fontana, ‘Science Museum in a Pizza Box: Performance, museum tour guiding, and science communication.’ (with Theatre Studies)

Hien Tan Thu Nguyen, ‘Pro-poor tourism in Vietnam’s marine conservation zones system.’ (with Tourism Management)

Current MMHS dissertations

Riah King-Wall, ‘Path to Accessibility: the current state of disability access in Aotearoa New Zealand museums.’

Kate McKenzie-Pollock, ‘Engaging Asian Audiences: an investigation of New Zealand Museums.’

Lillian McCredie-Bayley, ‘Cultural Diplomacy in Practice: A comparative study of partnerships between museums in New Zealand and China.’

Alice Meads, ‘Aztecs at Our Place: Meaning-making in an international touring exhibition.’

Completed PhDs

Schorch, Philipp (2011) ‘Te Papa, a forum for the world? : A narrative exploration of a global public sphere.’

Completed MAs

Griffin, Kiri (2012) ‘Private tastes and public desires: Exploring the perspectives and practices of private collectors who share their collections publicly.’

Moffat-Wood, Alex (2012) ‘Blizzard-city: Built environment and civilisation in Antarctica, 1911-1961.’ (with History)

Berndt, Anton (2011) ‘The state of play: An exploration of games and their value in museum exhibitions.’

Completed MMHS dissertations (since 2007)

Pip Howells, (2014) ‘Feeling the Museum: An Exploration of Affect in the Development of Social History Exhibitions’.

Oliver O’Connell, (2014) ‘History of a thousand hands: Heritage websites in New Zealand.’

Caddigan, Elise, (2014) ‘Seeing Eye to Eye? The presentation and understanding of interpretation at a New Zealand heritage site.’

Matariki Williams, (2014) ‘Ka hao te rangatahi: How is contemporary Māori society collected at Te Papa?’

Fell, Georgina (2012) ‘Going social: A case study of the use of social media technologies by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.’

Finigan, Nina (2012) ‘Environmental sustainability in New Zealand museums: A case study of Te Manawa Museum, Gallery and Science Centre.’

Murgatroyd, Naiomi (2011) ‘Moving museums: Incorporating contemporary dance in New Zealand museums.’
Larkin, C. (2011) ‘The participation of small museums in visitor research.’

Searle, Chloe (2010) ‘Collecting for New Zealand: Examining what the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa should collect.’

Mey, Vera (2010) ‘Commonplace: Towards a post-ethnic understanding of identity and representation of Asian New Zealanders for museum practice.’

Hawthorne, Louise (2009) 'Setting boundaries: Assessing the Value and Significance of Heritage Areas in New Zealand'

Phipps, Gareth (2009) ‘Bringing our boy home: The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, its visitors, and contemporary war remembrance in New Zealand.’

Sibley, Pamela (2007) ‘The individual visitor’s experience of museums: A study of six individual visits to the Museum of Wellington City and Sea.’

Bell, Jamie (2007) ‘Who do you think you are?: Constructing and representing Central Otago identity.’