What is a Forgery?

It would useful to define more precisely the nature of materials whose authenticity is held in question. Different classes of reproductions exist, and different connotations are associated with specific terminology. In the museum context, the following terms denote specific classes of artifacts:

  • Reproduction:

    A replica or facsimile of an original object. Often, reproductions are made directly from originals, making them exact duplicates, and are sometimes physically marked on the piece as being a direct copy. Many reproductions are issued by museums through their gift shops as a way in which people can enjoy copies which are faithful to the original object held in a museum collection.

  • Copy:

    A replica produced by using an original as a guide, but not physically using the artifact itself for direct mechanical reproduction. Because of this, copies are generally less exact than reproductions.

  • Forgery:

    A spurious work that is claimed to be genuine. Forgeries generally do not duplicate specific objects, as they are most often attempts to deceive. The best forgeries assimilate the defining traits of a particular style of artifact into an end product which is convincing because it is representative of an accepted set of qualities which the genuine pieces exhibit.

The Art of the Fake: Egyptian Forgeries from the Kelsey Museum of Archeology

Exhibit Curators: Robin Meador-Woodruff, Terry Wilfong and Janet Richards
Exhibit Designer: Anne Noakes