Is authenticity an impossible aim for English maritime museums?

Turner, James (2010) Is authenticity an impossible aim for English maritime museums? MSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    According to Trilling (1972), ‘authenticity’ was first used in museums when experts ‘wanted to determine whether objects of art are what they appear to be or are claimed to be’, and therefore deserve admiration (Trilling, in Reisinger and Steiner, 2005, p.67). Authenticity is a difficult term to define. Museum curators and organisations responsible for heritage sites adopt differing interpretations. For example, the International Committee on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has broadened its definition of authenticity from being concerned only with original material and the absence of reconstruction (Venice Charter, 1964), to recognising, in the publication of the Nara Document on Authenticity (1994) that authenticity depends on ‘cultural and heritage diversity’ (ICOMOS, item 1). This study explores how authenticity has been approached at ten different maritime heritage attractions in England. The author begins by researching the academic literature on authenticity. Primary data are reported from interviews with curators and from site observations at each museum. The key hypothesis is that authenticity is an impossible aim for maritime museums. To investigate this hypothesis, four objectives are investigated. How curators in this study view authenticity has implications for restoration and conservation policies. Some museums have active conservation programmes to preserve historic vessels whereas others restore historic ships, to recreate their past glory. This study also explores how the approach to authenticity influences collection and display practice. Museums such as the National Maritime Museum are committed to displaying original artefacts, labelled with dates that confirm their authenticity. In contrast, museums such as the National Fishing Heritage Centre interpret maritime heritage through imaginative dioramas and replica objects. The dissertation concludes that, given a broad definition, authenticity is a possible aim for maritime museums. However, the curators in this study have compromised authenticity for various reasons, typically to interpret their collections to a modern audience.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: ?? EDAM ??
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2011 16:49
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 11:17

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