What Aspects Of The Museum Provide The Visitor With An Authentic Experience

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“When we say that something is original … we are referring to the aspect of what can be called authenticity or genuineness, that which is unique not because it is necessarily different in topic or technique, but because it embodies one person’s experience with deep particularity.” This statement, made by the poet Jane Hirshfield, has provoked a reevaluation of my ideas of an authentic work of art, especially within the museum. Authenticity has some definite, and some more vague definitions. In the following paper, I plan to explore what aspects of the museum provide the visitor with an authentic experience, allowing them to access something authentic. Three institutions will be examined: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (Winterthur), the Barnes Foundation, and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG); each institution provides the visitor with a different type of experience, some more authentic than others. I would first like to start by examining Winterthur within the context of the article, “The Precession of Simulacra,” by Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard describes different levels and types of simulacra that exist, which I view as a sort of scale between simulation and hyperreality, where the real is something entirely separate. Authenticity falls within this model in the real. Winterthur exists in a state of hyperreality. It is a historic house, which was once the home of Henry Francis du Pont, a collector of American decorative arts. In the 1950s the house was converted
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