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Accepted Paper:

Irresponsible storytelling? The implications of authenticity in the museum  

Author:

Frankie Enticknap (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will present some ideas on the relationships between ‘authenticity’, ‘storytelling’, and ‘responsibility’ in museums. Authenticity will be considered to be a phenomenon that is constructed and performed, and therefore vulnerable to normative criticism over how it is specifically wielded.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will explore the multiplicitous relationships between ‘authenticity’, ‘storytelling’, and ‘responsibility’ in museums; touching upon what authenticity might be, how it might appear and function, and what its implications might be for so-called ‘good’ museum practice. Authenticity will be situated as constructed and performed; contributing to the particular identity of any given artefact within the museum. This makes its possibilities and manifestations near-on endless, given the unique, often contradictory lives of each artefact within most collections. It is accordingly interested in such questions as: is authenticity, then, a powerful epistemic tool to be wielded by museums, in order to construct collections for specific ideological purposes? Or is this idea going far-too-far? How is the function of authenticity tied to the function of museums themselves? And what are their responsibilities when it comes to this phenomenon? This paper then, is concerned with how authenticity - in relation to an artefact - is constructed within the museum collection, versus in competing situations; and will discuss how such institutions are vulnerable to both criticism, when it comes to the construction of authenticity - and normative claims over how it should be constructed and performed instead. Examples from multiple collections will be employed to support this discussion, in order to advocate a case-by-case approach to analysing collections through the lens of authenticity.

Panel Speak09a
Sensible museums: responsibilities of knowledge creation and narrative construction in museums I