Leibniz Research Alliance
Historical Authenticity

© ZZF/Dominik Juhnke


Historical authenticity from the perspective of the history of ideas and historical semantics

Historical Semantics and Concepts - Shifting Authentication Processes - Instances of Authentication - Authenticity and Value Systems

Proceeding from the general assumption that historical authenticity is generated mainly discursively, Topic I is devoted to the semantics of the authentic as a concept. It will focus on how the authenticity discourse has changed in the modern era from the sixteenth century up to the present and on the corresponding changes in authentication processes and the formation of a “collective memory”. It will look at both the various instances of authentication (texts, people, objects, events) and at how authentication discourses and process are embedded in (collective) religious, moral or ethical value systems.

Identification and communication of authenticity in museums

Validation Strategies in Museums - Restoration and Conservation Research - Communication Strategies - History of Knowledge and Material Culture

A number of authentication practices endow objects, collections and theknowledge derived from them with an "authentic" value for research and for communications and educational work in museums, archives and other comparable institutions. These practices apply to both the "identification" and the "communication" of authenticity and it is between these two poles that the social value of an object in a collection is determined. The goal of this topic is to consider on a broad interdisciplinary basis what semantic dimensions and functions are ascribed to "authenticity" in museums and other similar institutions. It will look at what kinds of authentication practices and validation strategies are applied, how authenticity is identified and how it is communicated, and what significance it has for the museum-going public. Via research projects and international conferences, workshops and publications, the topic group aims to reflect and develop dialogue and communications work with the public and collecting strategies of museums and other collection-led research institutions, providing important impetuses for museum practice.

Spaces of authenticity

Historic Preservation - Memorial Sites - Geovisualisierung - Cities and Cultural Landscapes - Tourism and History - World Heritage

The group will examine fundamental questions of the authentic in discourses on urban and cultural landscapes, on memorial sites and lieux des memoires, as well as knowledge-specific and media validation strategies for historical sites. Here a special focus will be questions of urban redevelopment and the preservation of historic monuments, attitudes to building culture, the UNESCO world cultural heritage as well as history tourism in and outside Europe. It will look at the role of various actors and national and transnational organisations in ascribing authenticity. These questions will be analysed in the context of discourses about progress and modernisation in the period from the nineteenth century to the present day in a transnational perspective. The goal of the topic group is to develop a characterisation of "regimes of historicity" (François Hartog) in specific areas in European and non-European (urban) societies, spanning a period of time stretching back into the history of the nineteenth century.

Historical authenticity as a political-cultural argument

Authenticity and Commemoration Conflicts - Victim Identities - Public History - Re-Encactment - School Textbook Research - Historic Witnesses - "Immaterial Heritage"

Political conflicts about history and the culture of memory are often characterised by recourse to historical authenticity. These are used to create and demarcate cultures and communities with national, ethnic, religious and other group-specific identities as well as to legitimise claims to power and rule. The group will examine shifts in perceptions of authenticity in the twentieth century and the attribution of authenticity in transnational perspectives. To this end it will conduct projects on social, ethnic, ideological and religious memory conflicts and power relationships, on hero and victim identity, on the meaning of accounts by historical witnesses and autobiographies, and on the status of the authentic in work at memorial sites and in other public history formats.



Working Groups

The research alliance has established working groups. In four main topics, we will examine how the discourse on authenticity has changed over the centuries, how museums identify, (de)construct and communicate authenticity, and look at the role of authenticity in constructions of space as well as in political conflicts.