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Wednesday, May 15 • 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Socratic Dialogue: Authenticity, originality and innovation: what are we trying to achieve? TICKETED

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Authenticity and originality. These two concepts can be considered to be the most important and decisive concepts used in the value assessment of objects of cultural heritage, and in decisions concerning their conservation and restoration. These concepts lie directly behind decisions, for example, about  -    retouching a painting,  -    the partial or complete removal of a yellowed varnish or an overpainting,  -    whether one can replace a discolored photographic work with a reproduction,  -    whether one can replace a component in an installation, or  -    how one treats damage or aging in objects ranging from century old textiles and leather objects, to architectural components, scientific or musical instruments, and antique vehicles.   Ultimately, the terms authenticity and originality lie behind discussions about artist intent, and whether a particular treatment was successful.  The advent of so-call science-based conservation, starting with the so-called cleaning controversy at the National Gallery in London after World War II, has brought new intensity to the discussion. The use of modern advanced and innovative technology to study objects to nano-levels, predict how they used to look, or, for example, to virtually retouch them, raises even more questions about what it is we as conservators and conservation scientists are doing. What we are trying to achieve with all of this innovation, and what that means in terms of authenticity and originality?   In the continuing series of such dialogues at AIC annual meetings, a Socratic dialogue is thus proposed for the 2019 meeting in New England to investigate what we mean by the terms original and authentic when it comes to the innovative study and treatment of valuable objects. A Socratic dialogue is a structured form of dialogue in which all participants actively contribute. The purpose of the dialogue is not to solve the question at hand, that is, what does authenticity and originality mean in conservation, but to investigate each other’s experience and opinions in the application of those terms in daily conservation practice. The Socratic method provides a safe, open environment for participants to investigate what the essence behind the use of the terms authenticity and originality is, and to understand their own points of view as well as those of others. It provides a solid foundation for thinking about what we expect when we innovate in the study and treatment of objects and how we define the success of the treatment.

avatar for William Wei

William Wei

Senior Conservation Scientist, Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed
Dr. Wei (1955) is a senior conservation scientist in the Research Department of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE - Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed). He has a B.S.E. in mechanical engineering from Princeton University (1977) and a Ph.D. in materials science... Read More →

Wednesday May 15, 2019 12:00pm - 2:00pm EDT
Abenaki Room Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Lunch, General