Value or frailty? copies and reconstructions in ethnographic collections Cover Image

Wartość czy ułomność? Kopie i rekonstrukcje w zbiorach etnograficznych
Value or frailty? copies and reconstructions in ethnographic collections

Author(s): Agnieszka Grabowska
Subject(s): Sociology
Published by: Polskie Towarzystwo Ludoznawcze
Keywords: copies; reconstructions; ethnographic collections

Summary/Abstract: The article is an attempt to examine the problems of copying and reconstruction in ethno- graphic collections on the example of several selected museums in Poland. In my opinion in Polish museology, especially in the field of ethnography, these concepts are used imprecisely and interchangeably, which causes difficulties and dilemmas in many aspects of museum work – such as inventories, exhibitions and attempts of items evaluation and categorization. The issues which I have tried to consider and describe here concern the types of copies, their use and function, the role they play in exhibitions and maintenance, as well as the concept of reconstruction and originality which are areas of mutual penetration not clearly separated. Correlation of these areas along with chaotic terminology causes additional ambiguity in un- derstanding of the issues that interest me. Today, humanities, art, as well as museology and conservatism face the problem of the relationship between these terms. This is even more difficult when we look closer at the entire contemporary culture, which is based on the use of ubiquitous copies because digitization of documents and pictures is in fact making copies. Also, museum reality is only an attempt to reproduce. From authentic objects with historical value, we – museum workers – create a conventional reality, we operate in the area of simu- lacrum. Taking it into account we cannot be completely critical of copies or reconstruction and depreciate “these things” because we ourselves live in unreal and reconstructed space. I believe that copies and reconstruction have a right to be treated more gently, especially because they are sometimes irreplaceable. For educational or workshop purposes, these ob- jects are both useful and even desireable. On the other hand, we must not forget that copies or reproductions should only be a supplement that operate on the margins of the museum collections. Exhibitions in the Museum should mainly consist of authentic objects, because only authenticity of the museum exhibits legitimizes the museum narrative. So, where should we place copies and reconstructions ? Transparent criteria that would normalize their functioning a clear and updated scheme of museum activities, and – above all – adjusting the regulations to the realities prevailing in museums would certainly contribute to the better organization and understanding of this issue. In this article I am going to refer to the collection of fabrics and costumes from Ethnographic Museum – the place of my professional work, and provide additional information that I gained during the queries and research done in ethnographic museums in major Polish cities.

  • Issue Year: 5/2018
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 25-54
  • Page Count: 30
  • Language: Polish