Treasures on Trial!

Treasures on Trial:

My fall break weekend did not leave behind the influences of illusion studied in the pavilion project. On my many runs to Home Depot, Lowes, and JoAnns for materials I heard a commercial for an exhibit at the Winterthur Gallery which peaked my interest. The exhibit titled “Treasures on Trial” exhibited a wide range of fakes and forgeries across all disciplines.

An hour long drive through the beautiful Pennsylvania country, broken up by suburbs and small towns, I arrived at Winterthur Gallery in Wilmington, Delaware. I am not completely sure what Winterthur is meant to be, however the grounds are immense and absolutely beautiful with rolling hills and forest. A quick ten minute walk through forest and gardens led me to the Main gallery. Up a lovely flight of stairs and I stood before the second floor display of “Treasures on Trial”. Inside I was met with a side by side comparison of many originals and their false counterparts. Each piece was accompanied with a brief history, an explanation of the trickery used to hide the fake, and an explanation of what has happened since its discovery.

Traditionally when someone mentions a fake or a forgery people think money and art. This exhibit also showcased clothing, bags, furniture, silver ornaments, plates, baseball memorabilia, stamps, weathervanes, photography, violins and wine. The range of forgeries was impressive. I had never really stopped to consider the potential of forged violins, whose sound clearly attests to its false creation when compared to the original, or wine, whose labels and sale records can quickly rule out its vintage date. Even with furniture there are many ways to tell a fake or forgery such as materials used (from wood to paint and coating ingredients), construction techniques, and wear and use patterns.

I really loved the fact that each artifact in the museum was given a detailed description of how it was a forged object and what methods were used to determine its falsehood. The techniques used at the time versus today are also really intriguing. Several of the mentioned techniques I recall hearing on shows such as Forensic Files to sample evidence from crime scenes to aid investigators in determining a suspect’s potential involvement. The range to which these technologies and tests can be used to solve puzzles is impressive.

At the end of the entire gallery a few unsolved fakes await your decision. Some of the tests provide inconclusive answers, some of the histories still to vague for experts to decide and so the decision is put to the test of popular vote. It’s a really nice way to tie in all the prior case studies and knowledge learned through the exhibit into an interactive test.

If you have a free weekend between now and January 7th and need something to do for a few hours I highly recommend going to the Winterthur Gallery to see “Treasures on Trial”.

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