Special On-line Event: Originality and authenticity, a real Socratic dialogue


Date:           Thursday, 24 June 2021

Time:           18.00 – 20.00 CEST (Central European Summer Time)

Location:      On-line

Participants:  Professionals interested in the ethics of cultural heritage conservation

Number:       Maximum 24

Registration: Free but required - b.wei@cultureelerfgoed.nl

Qualifications: No experience necessary

The IIC symposium “Conservation and Philosophy: Intersections and Interactions” held last December (2020) was a unique opportunity for conservators and philosophers to discuss authenticity, replicas and the ethics of conservation among the two professions. During the meeting, it was clear that questions of authenticity and originality continue to play an important, if not, the most important role in conservation decision-making. These two concepts lie behind the often-heated decision-making process on how to treat damage or aging in objects ranging from paintings, century old textiles and leather objects, to architectural components, scientific or musical instruments, and antique vehicles. They also play an important role in decisions concerning the use of reproductions for discoloured photographs, replacing parts in contemporary installations or the repurposing of historic buildings. Ultimately, the terms authenticity and originality lie behind discussions about artist’s/maker’s intent, and the debate as to whether a particular treatment or conservation decision could be considered successful.

The question remains, however, what is meant by authenticity and originality? In order to further explore what we mean by these two concepts, a Socratic dialogue is being organized to take a closer look at the two concepts of originality and authenticity. A Socratic dialogue is a structured form of dialogue in which all participants actively contribute. The purpose of the dialogue is not to solve the question at hand, that is, what does authenticity and originality mean in conservation, but to investigate each other’s experience and opinions in the application of those terms in daily conservation practice. The Socratic method provides a safe, open environment for participants to investigate what the essence behind the use of the terms authenticity and originality is, and to understand their own points of view as well as those of others.

You are invited to take part in this dialogue which will be conducted on 24 June, 2021 from 18.00-20.00 hours CEST (Central European Summer Time). This initial (IIC) dialogue is free of charge. However, before signing up, please note that a Socratic dialogue requires your full concentration and participation. Therefore, please be sure that you can free up and commit two hours of your time without interruption.

For more information and to register, write to the moderator at b.wei@cultureelerfgoed.nl



The dialogue will be moderated by Dr. W. (Bill) Wei (1955). He is a senior conservation scientist in the Cultural Heritage Laboratory of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE). He conducts research into the effects of cleaning and treatments of objects, but also vibrations and mechanical stresses, on their appearance and viewers’ perception. Dr. Wei has trained as a Socratic dialogue moderator and has organized over 50 dialogues over the past eleven years, including dialogues at eight AIC annual meetings (2013-2019, 2021) on “value”, “museum climate”, “certification”, “disaster planning”, "high-tech innovation", “public participation” “color”, “objectivity, subjectivity and taste in conservation decision-making”, and “systematic racism in conservation”, a dialogue on the rights of living artists at the ICOM-CC meeting in 2014 and at the ICOM-CC Legal Issues working group meeting in 2016, and dialogues for various museums, cultural heritage institutes, universities, and smaller groups of conservators in different countries on conservation ethics, cleaning of historic church interiors, digitalization, photograph conservation, the value of archaeological work, and the subject of dust in museums.