The resource, New Futures for Replicas: Principles and Guidance for Museums and Heritage, urges those who create, use and care for replicas to rethink their approaches and begin to recognise the authenticity, value and significance of these items.
“Replicas of historic objects are widely used in heritage sites and museums, often in response to challenges around the original – such as damage, destruction, or restitution. But, their significance and the underlying stories of human creativity, skill, and craftsmanship which go into creating replicas, are often ignored because they are viewed as mere surrogates for the missing ‘original’,” states Dr Sally Foster, senior lecturer at the University of Stirling.
The new toolkit outlines key principles in relation to replicas, with guidance in five areas: understanding of value, knowledge and understanding, securing for the future, wider public benefit, and creating new replicas.
Foster and colleague Professor Siân Jones led an international team of experts in developing the online resource, following the publication of their co-authored book, My Life as a Replica: St John’s Cross, Iona. The paperback explores the relationship between one of Scotland’s best-known historic monuments and its 1970 concrete replica.
“Replicas and originals often sit between places, collections and sectors, and are subject to inconsistent, different and divergent practices, which may include inertia and invisibility,” Foster continues.
“Informed by our new thinking about authenticity and the value of replicas, the newly published guidance seeks to change this and aims to support and encourage heritage and museum professionals, and others, to think more imaginatively about the future of their replicas.
“If we ignore or lose replicas, or do not adopt new practices in relation to the creation of new replicas, we will fail to release the potential they embody, to challenge our notions of authenticity and value, to interrogate our heritage and museum practices, and to acknowledge underappreciated human skills, crafts, passions and ways of seeing the world.”
The New Futures for Replicas guidance has been labelled an “invaluable toolkit for enabling museums to apply a much-needed consistency of care to objects which often span diverse collections and disciplines” by Gillian Findlay, interim head of museums & collections at Culture Perth & Kinross.
The resource, she adds, “necessitates an urgent re-calibration of how replicas are considered by museums and presents exciting directions for research, engagement and interpretation of these objects”.