Workshop February 2022 – The role of authenticity

After a successful kick-off workshop in November 2021, the BILAD partners met again in February 2022 to continue the discussions of the kick-off meeting and to exchange further ideas. The focus of this meeting was the discourse on the role of authenticity in informal learning sites. The most interesting aspect of this workshop was that the perspectives of experts from different disciplines were shared, allowing for a comprehensive view on the meaning of authenticity.

After a welcome and some organizational information, Doris Lewalter started with a first outline of the term authenticity, its diversity, and possible problems with its definition. This was followed by short statements by BILAD partners, in which they presented their views on authenticity in the light of the various disciplines.

The first statement by Stephan Schwan dealt, among other things, with the question of why one should deal with authenticity at all in the field of informal learning spaces, which properties characterize the concept of authenticity, and which research questions arise in this area.

Constanze Hampp examined authenticity from the perspective of natural history museums. The focus was on the question of which dimensions of authenticity visitors attribute to objects in the museum. The context of the exhibition and the presentation, for example, play a key role in the visitors’ perception of authenticity.

Christian Sichau focused in his presentation on the role of authenticity from the perspective of science centers. The tension between the communication of scientific facts and laws and the communication of the nature of science itself is relevant here.

In her contribution, Swantje Bahnsen dealt with authenticity in the field of memorial sites. In particular, the historical sites and buildings are essential for the understanding of past events. A so-called authenticity paradox can arise when there is a discrepancy between the expectations of the visitors and the actual experience on site, for example when buildings have been restored and could not be preserved completely original.

Theano Moussouri and Palmyre Pierroux gave an insight into the field of educational research on informal education sites in their two statements. They gave, for example, an overview of the history and different definitions of authenticity from the point of view of museum research and raised the question of under which conditions something is perceived as real.

A short summary of the thoughts with the help of a virtual whiteboard and the opportunity for all BILAD members to exchange ideas about the statements made this part of the workshop complete. Thus, commonalities but also differences of the presented impulses could be discussed.

Finally, we discussed the next steps of the BILAD network. The first step is to develop an outline for a first paper, which among other things should take up the results of the workshop and put them into a theoretical framework