Foster SM & Jones S (2019) Concrete and non-concrete: exploring the contemporary authenticity of historic replicas through an ethnographic study of the St John's Cross replica, Iona. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 25 (11), pp. 1169-1188. https://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2019.1583272
What do we actually know about how replicas of historical objects and monuments 'work' in heritage contexts, in particular their cultural significance and intangible values? In this article we examine this question drawing on ethnographic research surrounding the 1970 concrete replica of the eighth-century St John’s Cross on Iona, Scotland. Challenging traditional precepts that seek authenticity in qualities intrinsic to original historic objects, we show how replicas can acquire authenticity and 'pastness', linked to materiality, craft practices, creativity, and place. We argue that their authenticity is founded on the networks of relationships between people, places and things that they come to embody, as well as their dynamic material qualities. The cultural biographies of replicas, and the 'felt relationships' associated with them, play a key role in the generation and negotiation of authenticity, while at the same time informing the authenticity and value of their historic counterparts through the 'composite biographies' produced. As things in their own right, replicas can 'work' for us if we let them, particularly if clues are available about their makers’ passion, creativity and craft.
Replication; authenticity; significance; intangible; ethnography; cultural biography
International Journal of Heritage Studies: Volume 25, Issue 11