MHC junior discovers the power of fakery

“Forgeries have a long history,” wrote Isakson in her blog post, “which is one of the reasons why it can be so difficult to tell what is truly real.”

By Xiomara Núñez ’20

Contrary to popular belief, antique forgeries and counterfeit documents, art works and artifacts can be very useful for understanding history.

That’s what Emily Isakson ’19, an ancient studies major at Mount Holyoke College, learned working with the American Antiquarian Society. Isakson has worked with the society since she was a first-year student and recently wrote about her latest research project in a blog post for its website.

In the post, Isakson, who is following the art history and archaeology concentration in her major, explored the perceptions of specific forgers and tampered artifacts over time.

“The source documents are interesting because, in reading them, I was given insight into the lengths people will go to defend their reputation,” Isakson wrote.

Her research led her to conclude that many fake materials may have shaped perceptions of history — the American Antiquarian Society holds a number of forgeries, frauds and even counterfeited materials in its collection.

The numerous artifacts Isakson discovered ranged from vouchers, money and checks to pirated papers, forged signatures and even portraits.

Isakson has also worked in the College’s Archives and Special Collections as an archives assistant.

Read the blog post.