Public Annual Meeting Report, October 24, 2015
Executive Director – Ute Wartenberg Kagan
Every year when our staff prepares the annual report for our members and the public, we begin to compile lists of books published, volunteers who helped, coins donated or photographed, and dozens of other projects. It then dawns on us how much we achieved over the last year. Much of our everyday work seems repetitive, and progress is often hard to measure. So this occasion offers a welcome opportunity for us to tell you what we have done and think about new projects for the coming year. You will hear from our staff in the next hour or so what has happened in the different departments.
Let me start by telling you about our brilliant team here at the Society. This year, we have few new members of staff. We are very pleased that our Assistant Curator of American Coins and Currency, Dr. Matthew Wittmann, returned from his sabbatical. This is his first Annual Meeting, and you will be able to hear his report. David Hill is our new Francis D. Campbell Librarian and joined the Society in December of last year. He is of course well known to most of our members, as he worked as our part-time ANS Archivist for many years. We are delighted to have on our staff Andrew Reinhard, our Director of Publications. He comes to us with a wealth of experience in the sector of archaeological publishing, although his other area of expertise is the connection of archaeology and videogames. Catherine diTuri, our new Membership and Development Associate joined us in December. Catherine has been working for a long time in the field of membership and development, and her expertise has greatly helped the Society in our membership efforts and fundraising. Without the help of Catherine and Eshel Kreiter, from whom you will hear later, we would not have been able to see such robust fundraising and membership activities. Here I would like to highlight that our lectures are now on YouTube, and our overall internet presence for membership activities is very strong indeed.
During the last year, we said good-bye to some colleagues, whose work has left a mark on the Society’s activities. Viviana Londono-Danailov left in November last year and took up a position at the Queen’s Public Library. My colleagues will mention some of the other volunteers and staff. I would like to emphasize how much we appreciate all the hard work everyone does for the ANS. Here let me highlight one of our most active volunteers, our Chairman Kenneth Edlow. Kenneth works daily here and helps greatly with our administrative work, assists our Director of Finance, Natalie Jordan, and is often found helping in the curatorial department. Over the last year, some of our staff was promoted, and here I would like to mention Ethan Gruber, who joined the staff over four years ago. His innovative approach to numismatic and archival database has made him a well-known figure in the world of museum databases, and in recognition of his achievements, he was promoted to Director of Data Science on 1 October 2015. We have one other promotion that I would like to announce today at the very end of my report.
First though I would like to turn to some of the activities on which I focus as Executive Director of this Society. Here my attention is turning increasingly to issues concerning cultural property and its many problems. The Society adopted a few years ago a set of guidelines for its collections, which govern all our acquisitions. A careful process of due diligence is in place, and for archaeological material the Society’s curatorial staff now occasionally turns down suggested donations. Our rules, which you can find online, basically support the spirit of the 1970 UNESCO convention, but we are mindful that coins are often hard to track through auctions or publications. However, we are increasingly forced to reject material that is offered for sale or donation, as its provenance is hard to track or often altogether unknown. Now we are going one step further in this debate, and we are beginning to engage all our members in a dialogue about the issues of cultural property in order to create a set of guidelines for serious collectors. Some of you might wonder why we as ANS staff get involved in this. Foremost, I want the Society and its members to fully understand the implications of collecting ancient or other coins and make sure that the legal guidelines—or constraints—that are now in place are fully understood. As historians, our staff is also concerned to preserve the heritage of the countries under threat. With the situation in Syria and Iraq, but also Egypt or Greece, which all suffer greatly in different ways, the context of coin collecting has changed in recent years to become much more politicized perhaps than it had been previously. This is not the place to go into further detail here. We look forward to discussing these controversial issues with ANS Members in some upcoming meetings. The ANS Magazine will also have some articles on this subject.
I would like to express this point my gratitude to all the many donors of the Society, who have made this year so successful. My special thanks go to our Trustees, who are an extraordinary group of people, and I feel very fortunate to be surrounded and guided by them. Their love of the institution and numismatics is a real inspiration both for me and the rest of the staff. Let me now turn to the staff, whom I would like to thank. Although we added a lot of new staff members to our small group, I feel this is a great team. Thank you to everyone.
At the end of my remarks, let me make an announcement about Peter van Alfen. Over the last few years, Peter has put out an enormous number of publications on a variety of research topics in numismatics, which range from the ancient economy, medals of World War I, to Alexander the Great, Athens, and so much else. He catalogued almost the entire holdings of the Society relating to Alexander III, which is the basis of a new database PELLA. For years, he has been directing the Eric P. Newman Summer Seminar, while doing a lot of everyday curatorial work as part of our tiny team here. Internationally Peter is now one of the leaders in the field of Greek numismatics, who is present at many conferences and whose works are much cited by other scholars. I am very proud to announce that he will be receiving a well-deserved promotion from Associate Curator to Curator at the American Numismatic Society.