The value of authenticity

I recently wrote a post called Information Ageism. In it, I discussed the importance of providing context for archival materials. This activity might just be a key aspect for archives, since it further enhances their status as knowledge institutions and it enriches their collections. Also, since archival professionals are so familiar with their collections, they have the authority and expertise to provide context that is relevant. Now, authority is a huge subject and also very debatable in the light of many interesting crowdsourcing projects (which I will talk about more in the future). Regardless, archives do still have important in-house expertise that is of great value. This cannot be ignored or put aside. Related to this is the topic of authenticity. Archives work hard to make sure that their holdings are authentic, and that they are organised and presented in authentic ways.

I am working on a project where I am investigating possible business models that archives can explore. A key question of course is: what are people willing to pay for in an age where so much is free and can be downloaded and copied easily? In a very interesting blog post called Better than Free, Kevin Kelly talks about eight basic uncopyable values that people are willing to pay for. One of these is authenticity. In a lot of articles and books that I have read this term keeps popping up as one of the most important values that archives need to protect and provide. The authors of the book The Experience Economy, Gilmore and Pine, also wrote Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want. I have not read it, but will probably have to in order to explore the topic further. On the book’s website, the authors state: “In our increasingly experience-driven world, consumers crave what’s authentic.” I have not read it, but will probably have to in order to explore the topic further. If Gilmore and Pine, Kevin Kelly  and all the others writing on authenticity are right, who knows how archives can use the value of authenticity in order to generate revenue.


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