Gary Arseneau - Deception: Are These Really Rodins?


Does it really matter whether an object exhibited in a museum, is "authentic?" This issue is addressed in the New Zealand News January 2, 2001 editorial article: "Museums exist for their authenticity." This editorial powerfully addresses the issues of authenticity and museums. It states:

"Museums have been enthusiastically brightening themselves in recent times. They are no longer content to be serious, rather austere storehouses of cultural treasure. They aim to be lively, entertaining places with interactive displays and other imaginative methods of engaging people in order to educate them.

"That is fine, so long as they remember that their distinguishing value still lies in authenticity. That is what we look for in a museum. We do not need a museum simply to discover what something looked like. Drawings and photographs in books can do that well enough. In a museum we expect to encounter the real thing. A replica, no matter how faithful to the original it might be, is not the same thing.

"That assumes, of course, that we know it is a replica. It is not hard for a museum to deceive people if it is so inclined. And there is a danger these days that well-meaning theorists will convince one another that it really does not matter. What is reality anyway, they may ask? If something is made in the exact image of the authentic object, the imitation is real in its own way. And if people believe it is a relic of the past, well it is in a way.

"If museums ever succumb to that philosophy, they will not survive. Their credibility will crumble if they become no more than theme parks filled with plastic and plaster representations of reality. There is a place for artifice in museums but it must be carefully presented as such. Patrons have a right to know when looking at a cast of a fossil, for example, whether they are seeing the actual stone in which the plant or animal was preserved, or a cast of the cast. When an ancient urn or a life-sized skeleton is only partly authentic, the public should be able to clearly discern the real bits.

"The value of museums is the opportunity they provide for people to feel a connection with others long ago or far away. There is nothing quite like seeing an object that has survived the centuries to sense that connection. Those who seek that connection need museums. They must not be deceived."

Are any of the "plasters" and "bronzes" promoted as "Rodin sculptures", that can be documented, really "authentic" in this "From Plaster to Bronze: The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin" exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum?" Yes, as stated earlier on page one, there is at least one probable "authentic" example.



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