Creating Authenticity

Authentication Processes in Ethnographic Museums

Edited by Alexander Geurds & Laura Van Broekhoven | 2013

Creating Authenticity

Authentication Processes in Ethnographic Museums

Edited by Alexander Geurds & Laura Van Broekhoven | 2013

ISBN: 9789088902055

Imprint: Sidestone Press | Format: 182x257mm | 176 pp. | Mededelingen van het Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde 42 | Series: RMV | Language: English | 15 illus. (bw) | 34 illus. (fc) | Keywords: anthropology, museum studies, ethnography | download cover

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Published in co-operation with the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology,Leiden

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‘Authenticity’ and authentication is at the heart of museums’ concerns in displays, objects, and interaction with visitors. These notions have formed a central element in early thought on culture and collecting. Nineteenth century-explorers, commissioned museum collectors and pioneering ethnographers attempted to lay bare the essences of cultures through collecting and studying objects from distant communities. Comparably, historical archaeology departed from the idea that cultures were discrete bounded entities, subject to divergence but precisely therefore also to be traced back and linked to, a more complete original form in de (even) deeper past.

Much of what we work with today in ethnographic museum collections testifies to that conviction. Post-structural thinking brought about a far-reaching deconstruction of the authentic. It came to be recognized that both far-away communities and the deep past can only be discussed when seen as desires, constructions and inventions.

Notwithstanding this undressing of the ways in which people portray their cultural surroundings and past, claims of authenticity and quests for authentication remain omnipresent. This book explores the authentic in contemporary ethnographic museums, as it persists in dialogues with stakeholders, and how museums portray themselves. How do we interact with questions of authenticity and authentication when we curate, study artefacts, collect, repatriate, and make (re)presentations? The contributing authors illustrate the divergent nature in which the authentic is brought into play, deconstructed and operationalized. Authenticity, the book argues, is an expression of a desire that is equally troubled as it is resilient.

Culture Sketching: The Authenticity Quest in Ethnographic Museums: An Introduction
Dr. Alexander Geurds

Real, Fake or a Combination? Examining the Authenticity of a Mesoamerican Mosaic Skull
Martin E. Berger

When is Authentic? Situating Authenticity in the Itineraries of Objects
Prof. Rosemary Joyce

Authentic Forgeries?
Prof. Oliver Watson

From Lukas to Liefkes? Age and Authenticity of Gold Jewellery from Sumba, Indonesia
Francine Brinkgreve

The Real Stuff: Authenticity and Photography from East Greenland in the Netherlands
Dr. Cunera Buijs

Alternative Authenticities (and Inauthenticities)
Prof. Sally Price

Authenticity and Curatorial Practice
Dr. Laura N.K. Van Broekhoven

Dr. Laura van Broekhoven

Laura Van Broekhoven (1972) is currently Curator Central and South-America at the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. She studied Amerindian archaeology and cultural history at Leiden University. Next to her function as curator (since 2001) she is researcher at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, and teaches several courses.

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Abstract:

‘Authenticity’ and authentication is at the heart of museums’ concerns in displays, objects, and interaction with visitors. These notions have formed a central element in early thought on culture and collecting. Nineteenth century-explorers, commissioned museum collectors and pioneering ethnographers attempted to lay bare the essences of cultures through collecting and studying objects from distant communities. Comparably, historical archaeology departed from the idea that cultures were discrete bounded entities, subject to divergence but precisely therefore also to be traced back and linked to, a more complete original form in de (even) deeper past.

Much of what we work with today in ethnographic museum collections testifies to that conviction. Post-structural thinking brought about a far-reaching deconstruction of the authentic. It came to be recognized that both far-away communities and the deep past can only be discussed when seen as desires, constructions and inventions.

Notwithstanding this undressing of the ways in which people portray their cultural surroundings and past, claims of authenticity and quests for authentication remain omnipresent. This book explores the authentic in contemporary ethnographic museums, as it persists in dialogues with stakeholders, and how museums portray themselves. How do we interact with questions of authenticity and authentication when we curate, study artefacts, collect, repatriate, and make (re)presentations? The contributing authors illustrate the divergent nature in which the authentic is brought into play, deconstructed and operationalized. Authenticity, the book argues, is an expression of a desire that is equally troubled as it is resilient.

Contents

Culture Sketching: The Authenticity Quest in Ethnographic Museums: An Introduction
Dr. Alexander Geurds

Real, Fake or a Combination? Examining the Authenticity of a Mesoamerican Mosaic Skull
Martin E. Berger

When is Authentic? Situating Authenticity in the Itineraries of Objects
Prof. Rosemary Joyce

Authentic Forgeries?
Prof. Oliver Watson

From Lukas to Liefkes? Age and Authenticity of Gold Jewellery from Sumba, Indonesia
Francine Brinkgreve

The Real Stuff: Authenticity and Photography from East Greenland in the Netherlands
Dr. Cunera Buijs

Alternative Authenticities (and Inauthenticities)
Prof. Sally Price

Authenticity and Curatorial Practice
Dr. Laura N.K. Van Broekhoven

Dr. Laura van Broekhoven

Laura Van Broekhoven (1972) is currently Curator Central and South-America at the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. She studied Amerindian archaeology and cultural history at Leiden University. Next to her function as curator (since 2001) she is researcher at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, and teaches several courses.

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