Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 September 2013
This paper was originally put together and presented by the author and Dr Sarah Tatham, Interpretation Officer for the Free Sites Project at English Heritage, at the XXIst International Limes (Roman Frontiers) Congress in Newcastle upon Tyne in August 2009. The following chapter differs somewhat from the presentation given that day, for two reasons. The first is that the original paper was largely visual and by its nature a chapter in a book is more restrictive in terms of graphics. Secondly, the author's thoughts and research on this topic have developed over the intervening two years. What follows is therefore more discursive and covers wider issues of academic accuracy, authenticity and artistic style in more depth.
Why Do We Commission Reconstruction Drawings?
Reconstruction drawings of the past are produced for a variety of purposes and audiences — for museum displays, guidebooks, graphic panels and to illustrate professional archaeological texts. All have the same objective: to put flesh on the bare bones of the past by restoring — on paper, at least — what time has taken away.
English Heritage and its predecessors, beginning with the Ministry of Works in the 1950s, have commissioned and displayed many hundreds of reconstruction artworks, largely produced to help visitors to England's historic sites in guardianship understand and relate to the past. Many of these paintings are archived in the National Monuments Record in Swindon and form a unique record of the development of the discipline (see Davison 1997 for a broad overview). Today, reconstruction drawings are regularly commissioned for guidebooks and for on-site information panels.