Archivists and librarians play a critical role in preserving and making accessible cultural resources, but there is now an uncertainty as to whether their traditional expertise is sufficient when dealing with digital resources. A particular focus of concern is the authenticity of these resources. This article looks at how the concept of authenticity has been constructed in traditional environments, and specifically by philosophers, art conservators, textual critics, judges, and legislators. It is organized around three broad definitions of authenticity: authentic as true to oneself; authentic as original; and authentic as trustworthy statement of fact.
The examination of these definitions of authenticity and their interpretation in different contexts suggests that authenticity is best understood as a social construction that has been put into place to achieve a particular aim. Its structures and goals vary from one field to the next and from one age to another. The article concludes that digital resources are comparable to traditional cultural resources such as art works, literary texts, and business records; they are in a continuous state of becoming and their authenticity is contingent and changeable.