FY2014 Harry W. Bass, Jr. Library


David Hill, Archivist -

FY 2014 Annual Report

Elizabeth Hahn Benge departure

The biggest news over the last year was the departure of the ANS’s Librarian of six years, Elizabeth Hahn Benge. We all miss her energy and enthusiasm but are so happy that Elizabeth has found a great position as a Collection and Exhibitions Manager at The Art Institute of Chicago.

Elizabeth came to the ANS at a challenging time. In 2008 we had just made the big move into our Varick Street headquarters, and within a year she would be helping to get a brand new cataloging system up and running—the DONUM catalog we know today. Elizabeth—and all of the catalogers, college interns, and volunteers whose work she oversaw—accomplished so much during her time here. Perhaps the project with the greatest impact has been the massive effort to barcode the books, articles, and other items in the library—over 30,000 so far—allowing us to keep track of the research materials that the ANS has been collecting now for a century and a half.

Under her leadership the library’s collections continually grew. So much was accomplished, in part thanks to her cultivation of various funding sources—working with our generous donors and securing several grants.

We certainly miss Elizabeth’s cheerful presence at the ANS, but wish her the best as she continues her career in Chicago.

But, of course, the work in the library has continued, and a great deal was accomplished, thanks mostly to our highly capable library cataloger, Katie Rissetto. Katie has been handling the day to day operations of the library—fielding researcher requests and other matters that arise, along with the usual cataloging of books and magazines—including the addition of nearly fifteen hundred fixed price lists, a category of materials that had never been cataloged at all in the past.

One welcome addition to the library is an overhead scanner that allows us to scan books and other items as they lay flat on the table. This means that rare books and those with fragile bindings can now be safely scanned. Not only can we copy individual articles as they are needed, but entire works can safely be scanned without damage.

Remarkably, Katie was able to scan the entire 42-volume Zeitschrift für Numismatik (1874-1935), a resource often used by curatorial staff and other users, but one that is extremely rare and fragile and will not hold up to continual copying. We anticipate that this is just the first project involving the scanning of multivolume works. Another candidate for this treatment would be the library’s early auction catalogs housed in the rare book room.

As always, a lot of the work in the Library is accomplished with the assistance of those outside our regular staff. Brett Ostrum is a Columbia University graduate student in anthropology who served an internship with us in the spring. Besides helping out with our cataloging—adding over 800 items to DONUM—she also helped with the preservation of our most at-risk books, producing protective enclosures for them.

Volunteer Herb Kreindler periodically donates his time to an ongoing project involving auction catalogs that had been accumulating uncataloged for decades. Some of these, particularly those with plates, are quite rare, and Herb is beginning his work by sorting out duplicates and will eventually assist us with the cataloging.

A familiar face at the ANS is our dedicated archives volunteer Arnie Tescher. Arnie comes in quite regularly, twice a week, and helps out with the archives cataloging. His work in the Archives led to an article he wrote for the Asylum magazine on the nineteenth-century numismatic bibliographer Emanuel Joseph Attinelli, for which he won the NBS’s best new author award. Arnie played a big role in a major project that is ongoing, the cataloging and annotating of over three thousand five hundred scanned pages of the notebooks of Edward Newell’s research on Greek coins. The project began in 2014 with a grant Elizabeth obtained from the The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, part of which funded Arnie’s scanning work, but the work continues today.

The scanned notebooks are being made available online through our ARCHER archives database, designed by the ANS’s Web and Database Developer, Ethan Gruber. Ethan has designed a system that allows us to link Newell’s handwritten notes to data in various online systems. Over the summer, curatorial intern Stephanie Christensen identified thousands of coins listed in two of the most important of the notebooks, those containing Newell’s data on hoards, and these have now been published online.

A Newell Gold Stater that came to the ANS in the bequest of his wife, Adra, in 1967.

“Treasure-trove in Cyprus of gold staters,” Numismatic Chronicle, 1871.

Dr. Hirsch = coin dealer Jacob Hirsch in Munich

In conjunction with the project, I took the opportunity to conduct research in the ANS Archives for an article on Newell and his wife, Adra, and their time at the ANS, which appears in ANS Magazine (2014 no. 3).

Outside Research

Outside researchers, of course, also continually use the Library and Archives to produce published works. I worked closely with ANS member Mark Ferguson who made interesting new discoveries in the Archive’s collection of records from the Chapman Brothers coin firm for his book The Dollar of 1804, in which Mark challenged some long-held assertions about the questionable conduct of the brothers. The book was recognized for extraordinary merit by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2014.

Chapman Brothers Article

I took the opportunity to conduct my own research on the Chapmans for an article appearing in ANS Magazine (2014 no. 2).

Bruttia Numismatica

As always, our members continue to contribute to the Library in a variety of ways. For example, I would like to thank Jonathan Kagan for donating a couple of centuries-old rarities, two works on ancient numismatic materials produced in different regions of Italy:

Bruttia Numismatica, a 1773 work on the area occupied by the Bruttii peoples.

Syracuse Book

And this two volume work on Syracuse in Sicily, Delle Antiche Siracuse. What makes this edition particularly interesting are the foldout plates of maps and coins, which are frequently absent in reproductions and digital copies.

Elizabeth Hahn Article on Sicilian Numismatic Literature

Before she left, Elizabeth made use of the plates and other materials for an article on Sicilian numismatic literature that appeared in ANS Magazine (2014 no. 2).

Normand Pepin Donations

We continue to fill gaps in our auction catalogs, particularly since we now have lists of the ones we need posted on the ANS website. Normand Pepin is one ANS member who has answered the call by donating some of the desired catalogs and other materials. Normand has also been working with Gordon Frost’s wife Rosalie and others who wish to donate these materials. Gordon passed away a few years ago and some of these are from his library, and more are expected to be forthcoming.

We would like to thank all of our members who have generously made cash and material donations to the library this year. As always, your contributions are so important to the full functioning of the Harry W. Bass Jr. Library.

NEH Grant Submitted

Just before her departure, Elizabeth submitted her final report for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant that funded work beginning in 2013. The funds were used to purchase supplies to rehouse rare auction catalogs and periodicals in acid-free containers as well as for the assessment of the needs of the bindings in the rare book room by professional conservators with a specialty in bookbinding. An intern, Emily Dunlay, a student completing her Master’s in Library and Information Science at Long Island University, assisted with the project.

David Hill

Return to the 2014 Annual Report