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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Dr Mary Brooks

Brooks, M. M. (2014). ‘Indisputable authenticity’ engaging with the real in the museum. In Authenticity and Replication: The 'Real Thing' in Art and Conservation. Gordon, R., Hermens, E. & Lennard, F. London: Archetype Publications. 3-10.

Author(s) from Durham


Seligman, a 20th-century collector and historian, stated: ‘The first duty of the museums is to give us the material necessary for the avoidance of errors, by the exhibition of choice and characteristic examples of indisputable authenticity’ (Seligman 1922: 75). This paper explores different approaches to valuing the ‘real thing’ and the changing attitudes of museums to their role as the creators of ‘authenticity’, including possible tensions resulting from visitors’ awareness of the changed ‘reality’ created through the conservation process. It looks at conservators’ long engagement with ideas of authenticity and argues that a more open acknowledgement of the part played by conservation in creating visitors’ experience of the multilayered tangible and intangible complexities of objects might also be an important step in developing public awareness of the social and cultural role of conservation.