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Beware of fakes in the stores in ‘Fakes and Forgeries: Yesterday and Today exhibit

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Wendy Aitkens explains the Galt Museum’s Fakes and Forgeries exhbit. Photo by Richard AmeryConsumers need to have constant vigilance, especially during the Boxing Day shopping season. But today, the old adage, “You Get What You Pay For,” has never been more true.

Because everything you can buy can be counterfeited including the currency itself. So it is a perfect time for the Galt Museum to  open their latest exhibit — Fakes and Forgeries: Yesterday and Today. The traveling exhibit, comes to the Galt  from the Royal Ontario Museum with the help of a  special Heritage Canada grant.

 The interactive exhibit, which opened Dec. 18 and runs until April 10, features 11 showcases full of  numerous different types of forgeries  from currency to ancient artifacts, as well as originals set side by side. They include counterfeit merchandise, minerals, drugs, hockey helmets and uniforms, counterfeit software and popular items like toys and ipods as well as ancient artifacts and their counterfeited counterparts from Egypt and China.

“The collection puts them side by side and  gives you a chance to  guess which is which. But they don’t just leave you guessing, you  can open a door and see if you are right or wrong. Underneath the door is an explanation of what to look for,” said curator Wendy Aitkens adding counterfeiting costs Canadian taxpayers about $22 million a year.

“The Royal Ontario Museum has six million objects, so when they found out they had fakes in their collection, they put some of them together side by side with the real ones,” she continued.

“It’s great for groups to come in  and compete against each other to see who is right before opening  the doors,” she said.
 One of the faked pieces of merchandise, which surprised Aitkens, was a counterfeit hockey helmet.

“One of our staff volunteers  who has kids in hockey was shocked by it, when he noticed  the CSA sticker was different. That helmet could be very, very dangerous,” she observed adding it could shatter if hit by a puck.

“And those fraudulent drugs and pharmaceuticals can be very harmful,” she continued.

“One of the things we want people to take away from this exhbit is the fact that these are just a few of the forgeries out there. So people really need to be aware that forgeries are out there when they go shopping. And criminal cartels make a lot of money from them,” she said,  adding it is possible the Galt may also have forgeries in their collection, though it isn’t likely.

“We don’t have a lot of high end art or archaeology in our collection. But we know the objects and we know the sources they come from, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any,” said Aitkens, who during the opening day of the exhibit, Dec. 18, noted she herself, being an avid potter, created replicas of some ancient ink bottles for the Glenbow Museum, but made sure to mark them as replicas to emphasize the fact they were just replicas.

“It is an interesting look behind the scenes of the Royal Ontario Museum. The curators there were fooled. They have lots of experts on staff and even they were fooled by some of these (items in the exhibit),” she said.

A version of this story appears in the Dec. 29, 2010 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times

— by Richard Amery, L.A Beat Editor
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