Creating Authenticity (Paperback)
Authentication Processes in Ethnographic Museums
‘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 the (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.Published in co-operation with the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden.