The logic of archival authenticity: ISO 15489 and the varieties of forgeries in archives

  • Julia Kastenhofer
Keywords: archival theory, authenticity, forgeries, reliability, trustworthiness


According to ISO 15489, the international standard on records management, the four main characteristics of authoritative records are reliability, integrity, usability and authenticity. In this article, the traits of an ideal record as specified by ISO 15489 are discussed by looking at the opposite of an authentic record – a forgery. By examining the varieties of forgeries found in archives, ranging from forgeries of details to forgeries of entire documents both by record creators and users, the argument is put forth that the difference between an authentic and reliable record and a forgery is not at all obvious. Since forgeries are a regrettable evil of an archive, instead of trying to fix authenticity, more thought should be spared on users’ and archivists’ attitudes towards forgeries and how inauthentic records should be handled in an archive.

Author Biography

Julia Kastenhofer

Julia Kastenhofer completed her undergraduate studies in History at the University of Vienna (Austria). She holds master’s degrees in Archives and Records Management from University College London (UK) and in Global History from the University of Vienna. Her work experience in Archives and Records Management includes positions at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (Austria) and the Historical Archives of the European Union in Florence (Italy). At the time the research in this paper was conducted, she was affiliated with University College London, Department of Information Studies. She currently works as an Information Manager at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC (USA).

How to Cite
Kastenhofer J. (2015) “The logic of archival authenticity: ISO 15489 and the varieties of forgeries in archives”, Archives & Manuscripts, 43(3), pp. 166-180. doi: 10.1080/01576895.2015.1074085.