Experiencing authenticity at heritage sites: some implications for heritage management and conservation



Jones S (2009) Experiencing authenticity at heritage sites: some implications for heritage management and conservation. Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites, 11 (2), pp. 133--147.;

This article summarizes the results from recent research focusing on the experience and negotiation of authenticity in relation to the historic environment. I argue that approaches to authenticity are still hampered by a prevailing dichotomy between materialist approaches (which see authenticity as inherent in the object) and constructivist approaches (which see it as a cultural construct). This dichotomy means that we have a relatively poor understanding of how people experience authenticity in practice at heritage sites and why they find the issue of authenticity so compelling. Drawing on ethnographic research in Scotland and Nova Scotia, I show that the experience of authenticity is bound up with the network of tangible and intangible relationships that heritage objects invoke with past people and places. I argue that it is these inalienable relationships between objects, people, and places that underpin the ineffable power of authenticity, and this also explains why people use ideas about authenticity as a means to negotiate their own place in the world. A summary of the main thesis developed out of this research is provided with short case examples. The article then highlights the implications for practices of heritage management and conservation.

Authenticity; Tangible heritage; Intangible heritage; Scotland; Nova Scotia; Heritage management

Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites: Volume 11, Issue 2

Publication date31/12/2009
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Publisher URL…0X12670102063661

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Professor Sian Jones

Professor Sian Jones

Professor of Heritage, History