Mathers Museum exhibit “Assessing Authenticity” exploring identification and authentication in museums

Guest post courtesy of IU Communications colleague Brittany Aders:

Mathers Museum is collaborating with Summer Festival of the Arts at Indiana University to acknowledge some of the wonderful art that is available here at IU. “Assessing Authenticity,” an exhibit that came from a student paper, is on display until July 13.

“I argued in my paper that fake artifacts should be employed in museums as teaching tools,” said Elizabeth Inlow, practicum student and curator of the exhibit. “I believe that this exhibit has been beneficial for the Mathers Museum because it has allowed us to display and discuss artifacts that would normally not be exhibited because of their questionable authenticity.”

"Day of the Dead" style papier-maché skull from Mexico, made in 1974 by the Pedro Linares family.

“Day of the Dead” style papier-maché skull from Mexico, made in 1974 by the Pedro Linares family.

Inlow said the exhibit has also become a beneficial tool for visitors to the museum because it shows that is going on behind the scenes of an exhibit, a topic that is rarely covered in exhibits themselves.

“Assessing Authenticity” is a display which exhibits two parts. The first covers the topic of misinformation, or an unintentional creation of fake works. The second misrepresentation is that of an intentional creation of fakes.

“Misinformation about objects is explored in terms of research mistakes, reproductions, and tourist art. Misrepresentation is discussed within the realms of monetary value and cultural value,” said Inlow. “The overarching goal of the exhibit is to open up a conversation about fakes within museum collections in order to make fakes less of a taboo subject.”

Inlow said that, from her point of view, art is an essential aspect of culture and human experience, and as a museum of world cultures the Mathers is always connected to art.

“’Assessing Authenticity’ in particular is also connected to art,” she said. “It may be kind of strange, but misrepresentation, or creating fake objects intentionally, is an art form that takes skill. Though this creative skill is negative in the fact that it is employed to deceive, nevertheless fakes can definitely be considered works of art.”

Mathers Museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. This interactive, multimedia exhibit is on display during these hours and is available until July 13.

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