Public Annual Meeting Report, October 24, 2015
Donor plaque recognition—Sydney F. Martin, President, presentation in honor of Joel Anderson, and Gilles Bransbourg, presentation in honor of Richard B. Witschonke
Donor plaque recognition—Sydney F. Martin, President, presentation in honor of Joel Anderson
I’d like to take a moment to talk about a select group of supporters of the ANS, and how the Society acknowledges those who enable this institution to endure and progress.
The plaques displayed on our Donor Wall acknowledge gifts of $500,000 and more—some were gifts of cash, others of coins and other numismatic items; some were single outright donations, others multiple contributions given over a period of years; some were made during the lifetime of the donor, others left to the ANS by bequest. Many represent a combination of such modes of giving.
But all of them bespeak a dedication to this institution that is truly extraordinary. The generosity of these supporters has allowed the ANS to undertake an enormous range of projects, from our never ceasing scholarship to the expansion of our collections, from the continuing digitization of our holdings to the publication of journals, magazines and thousands of pages of scholarship each year. That generosity allows us not only to inhabit these headquarters here in New York but to send our renowned curators to lectures at venues around the globe, all in an effort to advance the study of numismatics, to help us all better understand the past and carry on into the future.
Of course, there are many ways one can support the Society—through research and study, through membership, through the creation of new medals and tokens that carry on our tradition, to name just a few. But without the financial support represented by the plaques displayed here, all our many efforts would soon cease. Thus, although we gratefully acknowledge supporters of all types in various publications throughout the year, those who have made very significant financial contributions have permanent acknowledgement here at the heart of our New York home.
Until recently there were 86 plaques on the donor wall. The earliest of them was for gifts from Arabella Huntington and Archer Huntington in 1906. Others acknowledge the names of such numismatic luminaries as Daniel Parish, J. Sanford Saltus, and Edward Newell, past board president Donald Partrick, Abraham and Marian Scheuer Sofaer, the recipients of the Trustees’ Award for 2014), and John and Regina Adams, who will be this year's Gala honorees, among others.
With today’s dedication of plaques for Joel Anderson and Richard Witschonke, there are now 88 names to admire, and it is my privilege to offer a few remarks on the first of them:
Though born and raised in Alabama, Joel’s roots in this New York–based organization run deep. His family has been a major supporter of the Society for more than a quarter century. This very Board Room, where we are meeting today, is named for them. In 2007, Charles Anderson, Joel's brother, was himself acknowledged for uncommon generosity with a plaque on the donor wall.
Over the past decade, Joel has stepped forward to take his place in this great family commitment. Since joining the ANS in 2005, he has made a tremendous contribution to the Society, both through his active participation and his most generous gifts. He was first elected to the Board in 2006, and has thus far served two terms; he will begin his third term of office with the vote at this annual meeting today. Joel is a founding member of the Augustus B. Sage Society, a stalwart table sponsor—and tenacious auction bidder—at the annual Galas, and a member of the ANS Nominating & Governance Committee. For all this, for his presence, his mind, and his unflagging spirit, all of us at the ANS are immensely grateful. But today, we wish to acknowledge above all his truly magnanimous financial contributions to the Society, which include not only numerous gifts to annual appeals but also large contributions to such special fundraising efforts as the Hudson Square Building Fund, and the Campaign to Endow the Chair of the Executive Director. Through his support, the ANS has gained immeasurably, and we are honored to publicly and permanently address his magnificent contributions. We sincerely thank Joel for his unstinting dedication to the Society and look forward to continuing this wonderful partnership for many years to come.
Donor plaque recognition—Gilles Bransbourg, Adjunct Curator of Roman Coins, presentation in honor of Richard B. Witschonke
I feel particularly honored to say a few words about our former colleague, friend and benefactor Richard B. Witshonke. In a certain way, this was an unlikely invitation – my dear fellow curators, Elena and Peter, had known him for much longer. Since I met Rick quite late, I missed most of his most celebrated achievements, especially in the field of entertaining his friends and fellow numismatists.
The Rick I leant to know, enjoy and respect was an unbelievably enthusiastic supporter of knowledge and learning. We could talk endlessly about the ANS summer seminar, where he provided guidance to nearly a full generation of young scholars, and was regularly voted the warmest, most dedicated and most motivating counselor and advisor. Through the years, dozens of young and formerly young researchers could testify about the impact Rick had on them over the course of these years. For a short while I saw up close how intensely Rick worked, when we were presented with, and worked together on the ‘Bahrfeldt database’, which had been communicated to us by our esteemed friend Michel Amandry in 2011. This extraordinary trove of information about Roman Republican Coinage – almost 9,000 bronze coins from 63 public and private collections whose individual weights, denominations, types had been meticulously gathered through maybe 20 years of patient investigation. Michael Crawford, whose RRC relied mostly on the collections in Paris and London, had received the manuscript too late to incorporate it into his standard work on Republican coins. I can’t describe at length the exciting debates we had together over this virtual treasure trove.
Rick’s generosity extended well beyond the time he spent assisting fellow researchers and students. His love of entertaining is well know, but less well know perhaps are his gifts to the ANS, particularly his bequest of coins. During the summer of 2015 about 3,500 coins from his collection, organized in about 18 boxes, arrived at the ANS. As several of the most noted numismatists in the field had already helped sorting these coins and a respectable number of the coins had already found their way into the first volume of RPC published back in 1992, we knew this would be an extraordinary gift for the ANS in particular, and for the world of numismatics in general.
Rick had developed a specific interest in a major period of Mediterranean history: the Imperatorial Roman Republic. This is when Roman power came to encompass the entire Mediterranean region, from Western Europe to Egypt. As a result, monetary traditions are transformed beyond recognition in some cases, while others displayed surprising resilience and a capacity to adapt to the new masters of the world. As you will see from these charts, the collection of these types of coins of Roman subjects is about evenly spread between East and West, and about one quarter – three quarter between silver and bronze. Although it is too early to produce firm numbers, it seems this ensemble of coins will supersede all other collections of such coins as far as its historical and geographic focuses are concerned.
As all great collectors, Rick’s collection testifies to a programmatic interest, from the Cistophoric coinage of the Province of Asia’s closed monetary area, to coins bearing particularly prominent names, or coins of peculiar monetary history-related interest.
Of especial note are Rick’s Marc Antony’s Fleet Coinage and the Syrian Cleopatra issues, as prticularly since they may represent close to half of all surviving coins from these two extraordinary moments of history.
We have so far catalogued about 600 of these coins, and we will publish a Sylloge of the collection. Such an undertaking will involve the help of very distinguished colleagues and friends, such as Michel Amandry, Andrew Burnett, David Hendin and Pere-Pau Ripollès. Once published, the book will contribute to the numismatic knowledge of one of the most fascinating and least studied period of Greco-Roman history, and will become a standard reference in the field thus paying a lasting tribute to the man who had built this collection.
Rick’s time with us here at the ANS over the course of this last decade or so, was also the time that his relationship with Heidi Becker developed. Indeed, we applaud Heidi for enticing Rick to move to our area in the first place, and then encouraging him to volunteer at the ANS! More seriously, however, most of us have grown close to Heidi and have experienced her great generosity as well as that of Rick’s sons, Nat and Andy. Great thanks are due to her as well for all her help and support, particularly during a difficult time.
It no doubt would give Rick great pleasure to see his name alongside E. T. Newell’s and Asher Huntington’s. Placing his name on this wall of luminaries is the highest honor that we can give to our dear friend and colleague.