Standards > Authenticity

Standards > IntegrityProvenance

Buddha, Angkor Wat, Cambodia


"…To establish the authenticity of the documents and items in their care, archivists must compile evidence of the origins, chain of ownership, and completeness of their collections. They may capture and convey this information in different ways: through background documentation, deeds of gift, records of administrative transfer, certificates of authenticity, and maintenance of the integrity of the physical and administrative order of the record.
"Archivists add value to their collections by documenting the contents and maintaining information about them."

Authentication and reliability in Introduction to Archival Organization and Description:Access to Cultural Heritage, Getty Standards and Digital Resource Management Program, Getty Research Institute, J. Paul Getty Trust

The organic nature of archival collections gives rise to the central principle of the archival enterprise, respect des fonds. This concept is also referred to as the principle of provenance.  Defined by French archivists in the early nineteenth century, and successively refined by the German, Dutch, English, American, Canadian, and Australian traditions, this phrase has been variously interpreted.  It is the formal expression of the principle that an archivist must respect, and reflects the origins of the assembled materials as an integral and organic corpus of documentation.  It is the central and defining concept governing the way archivists document and organize their collections. Originally developed as a guiding principle for archivists dealing with governmental records, the concept has taken root in other organizational archives, and is applied to the tradition of historical manuscripts, where the corpus of an individual's records is treated as a logical unit, one often referred to as a fonds.

Principle of respect des fonds/Provenance in Introduction to Archival Organization and Description:Access to Cultural Heritage, Getty Standards and Digital Resource Management Program, Getty Research Institute, J. Paul Getty Trust

Respect des fonds/Provenance provides the cultural context in which the records become intelligible.  It also serves as the basis for authenticating and assuring the reliability of the contents of the records.


Nara Document on Authenticity, ICOMOS, Nara, Japan, 1994

"Values and authenticity

9. Conservation of cultural heritage in all its forms and historical periods is rooted in the values attributed to the heritage. Our ability to understand these values depends, in part, on the degree to which information sources about these values may be understood as credible or truthful. Knowledge and understanding of these sources of information, in relation to original and subsequent characteristics of the cultural heritage, and their meaning, is a requisite basis for assessing all aspects of authenticity.

10. Authenticity, considered in this way and affirmed in the Charter of Venice, appears as the essential qualifying factor concerning values. The understanding of authenticity plays a fundamental role in all scientific studies of the cultural heritage, in conservation and restoration planning, as well as within the inscription procedures used for the World Heritage Convention and other cultural heritage inventories.

11. All judgements about values attributed to cultural properties as well as the credibility of related information sources may differ from culture to culture, and even within the same culture. It is thus not possible to base judgements of values and authenticity within fixed criteria. On the contrary, the respect due to all cultures requires that heritage properties must considered and judged within the cultural contexts to which they belong.

12. Therefore, it is of the highest importance and urgency that, within each culture, recognition be accorded to the specific nature of its heritage values and the credibility and truthfulness of related information sources.

13. Depending on the nature of the cultural heritage, its cultural context, and its evolution through time, authenticity judgements may be linked to the worth of a great variety of sources of information. Aspects of the sources may include form and design, materials and substance, use and function, traditions and techniques, location and setting, and spirit and feeling, and other internal and external factors. The use of these sources permits elaboration of the specific artistic, historic, social, and scientific dimensions of the cultural heritage being examined."

Araoz, Gustavo, Margaret MacLean and Lara Day Kozak, eds. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Authenicity in the Conservation and Management of the Cultural Heritage of the Americas, San Antionio, Texas, March 1996, co-sponsored by the Getty Conservation Institute and US/ICOMOS, 1999.

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