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Fakes, Forgeries and Trickery

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Educational Resources

Critical Challenge - 1

Distinguishing the Forgery from the Fake

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In this challenge, students are provided with definitions of "forgery" and "fake" and are then presented with descriptions of various historical deceptions such as the Shroud of Turin and Shakespeare's lost play Vortigern and Rowena. Their challenge is to find the forgery among the fakes. Students then apply their understanding of forgeries and fakes by selecting a specific piece of archival material from LAC's collection and determining if it is a forgery or a fake.

Setting the Context

To provide students with a context for the challenge, present the following scenario:

The curator at LAC has a dilemma and needs your help! Held in LAC's collection of archival material are several forgeries, fakes and frauds. New historical documents are arriving on a weekly basis, but there is not enough storage space to keep everything. The curator will have to get rid of some materials, but which? Simply dumping forgeries and fakes is not the solution -- for several reasons: 1) Some forgeries and fakes are so clever or so rare that they have as much historical value as the originals; 2) altered materials sometimes provide valuable insights into the values and morals of the time; and 3) the outstanding quality of the work may make them valuable, or in some cases, more rare than the originals because only a few of the forged items were created. (In these cases the scarcity of the fakes or forgeries relative to the supply of originals makes the fake or forgery more valuable.) Herein lies the the curator's dilemma: What to keep?

Suggested Activities

Step 1: Organize students into pairs and provide each pair with definitions of "forgery" and "fake" (Student Handout 1.1) and descriptions of historical deceptions (Student Handout 1.2).

Step 2: Invite students to search for the forgery among the fakes by reading the descriptions of the historical deceptions. Suggest that one member of each pair read the description and the other respond by indicating whether the deception is an example of a forgery or a fake. Encourage the students to take turns reading the descriptions and offering their responses -- to provide practice in reading aloud and in active listening.

Step 3: Encourage partners to discuss their conclusions by citing evidence from the description to support their decisions. Once students have completed this activity, suggest they select one or more of the historical deceptions from LAC's website Detecting the Truth: Fakes, Forgeries and Trickery provided below. Invite students to work with their partner to determine if the selected historical deception is an example of a forgery or a fake. Remind students to use the definitions and to consult Detecting the Truth for guidance as well as evidence to support their conclusion.

Oil painting of a well dressed man with a sword worn at his side. His left hand is held up to his bearded chin as he stares out to sea from a ship's deck.
Imaginary portrait of Jacques Cartier,
circa 1844

Oil painting of a group of men in military uniforms and a First Nations man, grouped around a woman in a torn dress
Imaginary scene of the meeting between Laura Secord and Lieutenant Fitzgibbon, circa 1925

Black-and-white photograph of a man in a suit and a well-dressed woman. They are standing on a stone patio, with treed slopes and a snow-covered mountain in the background
Altered photograph of Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King in Banff, 1939-1940

Sepia-coloured postage stamp with perforated edges. In the centre is the head of a woman wearing a crown and drop earrings, with white text encircling her that reads PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND POSTAGE
Counterfeit postage stamp from Prince Edward Island, after June 1, 1870

Printed document in black type on white paper, with some staining and a rip at top of sheet
Fake order from Bishop of Québec dated 1759, created after 1810

One-dollar paper bill, slightly stained, with a cream-coloured background and black, grey and dark green graphics and text. The word COUNTERFEIT is written in burgundy across the face of the bill
Counterfeit $1 bill, 1870

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