on authenticity

The notoriously elusive and multi-faceted concept of heritage ‘authenticity’ carries many contrasting definitions, depending on the context at hand. Some relative, some absolute, each of these definitions suggests its own direction in the best-practice treatment and management of heritage.

In the evolving context of UNESCO World Heritage theory, the concept of authenticity is arguably a relative one (cf: Stovel; Feilden & Jokilehto), entirely contingent upon the Outstanding Universal Value underpinning the World Heritage status of a site. In other theoretical contexts (cf: Dovey), authenticity can be understood as a process-to-product relationship, hinging upon concept-matter theoretical consistency, from intention to production to interpretation.

In an age of rapidly evolving philosophies and technologies, the naoh initiative considers the concept of authenticity as a vehicle for the creative transubstantiation of information. Through this lens, the specific conceptual parameters of urban World Heritage sites form the basis for discussion on evolving historic city centres, and on their past and continuing history.

© James D. White, 2012