Replicas as a means of creating ‘living’ heritage, interpretation and understanding #HeritageChat (by Rebecca Tabrar, on behalf of Heritage 2020)

Last week (20 August), a Twitter chat organised by Heritage 2020 in partnership with Paul Hibberd of the LNWR George the Fifth Steam Locomotive Trust, explored replicas as a means of creating ‘living’ heritage, interpretation and understanding. Topics covered included how to define a replica in the context of heritage and how replicas add value to heritage, particularly regarding how they enhance understandings of past ways of living and how they can help people with different types of disabilities to engage with heritage. Discussions also focussed on what value replicas have in addition to acting as a surrogate for originals, along with how the digital age has changed the role of replicas and more presently, how the use of replicas has and will change in light of the pandemic.

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Extract from #HeritageChat discussion on replicas

The later stages of the chat saw participants discuss the newly published New Futures for Replicas: Principles and Guidance for Museums and Heritage. The guidance was welcomed by participants who believed it will be helpful to many heritage organisations. Some participants suggested that the term ‘replica’ needs to be further defined in the heritage context, and it was felt the glossary of the report would help with this. Participants also praised the report’s new understandings of authenticity which recognise replicas as original objects with their own stories to tell.

Paul Hibberd in summarising the chat, stated ‘I think there was a general feeling that the importance and potential of replicas has been undervalued’. He believes if the sector collectively works together to address this then there could be great benefits for museums and those engaged in heritage more generally. A more detailed summary of last week’s chat can be found here.

Heritage 2020 is a major initiative to strengthen partnerships and collaborative working across the historic environment sector. To encourage this, we host monthly chats on Twitter called Heritage Chats. The chats are a platform for sharing knowledge and expertise across the heritage sector. You can find out more information about them here and follow us on Twitter (@heritagechat). If you would like to suggest a topic for a Heritage Chat or help us to lead a chat, please email us at We have covered various heritage related topics in the past, and you can find all the summaries of previous chats here.  

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