The Thing about Replicas: Why Historic Replicas Matter

Sally M. Foster, Neil G. W. Curtis* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Reproduction of archaeological material was a significant and serious enterprise for antiquarians and museums in the long nineteenth century. Replicas embed many stories and embody considerable past human energy. Behind their creation, circulation, use, and after-life lies a series of specific social networks and relationships that determined why, when, and in what circumstances they were valued, or not. Summarising the context of their production, circulation, and changing fortunes, this article introduces the ways in which replicas are important, and considers the specific benefits and aspects of a biographical approach to their study. Beyond the evidential, the study of existing replicas provides a historical and contemporary laboratory in which to explore the concepts of value and authenticity, and their application in cultural heritage and collections management, offering us a richer insight into the history of ourselves as archaeologists and curators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-148
Number of pages27
JournalEuropean Journal of Archaeology
Issue number1
Early online date22 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

This article builds on the findings of the ‘Archaeological Replication: Multiplying the Dividends’ research workshop, which took place in Aberdeen on 28–30 October 2013, with funding from the Principal's Interdisciplinary Fund of the University of Aberdeen and support from Professor Keith Dobney. As organizers, we are enormously grateful to the attendees for their active participation and engagement, including suggestions on how to improve this article: Pádraig Clancy, National Museum of Ireland; Professor Bonnie Effros, University of Florida; Dr Martin Goldberg and Dr Mhairi Maxwell, National Museums Scotland; Dr Stuart Jeffrey, Digital Design Studio, Glasgow School of Art; Professor Siân Jones, University of Manchester; Dr Tara Kelly, researcher; Professor Jarl Nordbladh, University of Göteborg; Dr Marjorie Trusted, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. We also thank Dr Raghnall Ó Floinn, National Museums of Ireland, and Professor D.V. Clarke, University College London, for their support, and Ulf Bertilsson, members of the Iona Community, Murdoch MacKenzie, Dr Anne Pedersen, National Museum of Denmark, for information. For feedback on earlier drafts of this paper, SMF also thanks Dr Christa Roodt; and Professors Linda Hughes, Julie Codell, and Ryan Tweney who participated in a workshop and mini-symposium on ‘Nineteenth-Century Replication and the Prehistory of Virtual Reality’ held at Texas Christian University on 7 November 2014 (sponsored by TCU-RCAF funding, Dean Andrew Schoolmaster, AddRan College of Liberal Arts, the office of the Provost and the Department of English at TCU). The EJA’s reviewers gave us more to think about, and we thank them for this. The Henry Moore Foundation funded our illustrations, The Strathmartine Trust the artwork for Figures 5 and 6.


  • archaeological reproductions
  • facsimiles
  • plaster casts
  • cultural biography
  • value
  • authenticity


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