Today, the Visiting Scholar is an integral part of the Society's Graduate Summer Seminar. The Visiting Scholar is expected to give lectures and interact with students, while also having the opportunity to conduct his or her own research. However, when the Summer Seminar program was first developed in 1951, such a position was not envisioned. And as a result, there was no Visiting Scholar at the Seminar's inaugural session in 1952.
The Visiting Scholar position actually was not conceived until September 1952—immediately after the seminar's first session was over. That September the ANS Council gathered and reflected upon the success of the inaugural session. It was during their review that ANS President Louis C. West first proposed that "a visiting scholar, preferably in the Mediaeval field, be engaged for a period of six months to begin early enough to insure his presence during the 1953 Seminar." West made this proposal because of perceived weaknesses in the Society's collections which had become apparent during the Seminar. More specifically, although the Society had recently expanded the staffing in its Curatorial Department, it did not yet have a medievalist on staff. (Henry Grunthal, the Society's first curator specifically responsible for medieval coins, was not hired until June of 1953.)
The Council agreed with President West's proposal and charged ANS Councillor and former President Arthur S. Dewing with the task of locating an acceptable candidate during an upcoming visit of his to England. More than one candidate was proposed, but President West's first choice was Philip Grierson. "Assistance at our seminar," West explained to Dewing, "would involve, say, two talks before the group, and such individual consultation with members of the group as they might reasonably ask. We would offer the holder of this visiting professorship the opportunity to pursue any special study he desires, with the unrestricted use of our resources. There is the hope that whatever is produced would be published by us.... Interest in the mediaeval period must be built up in our staff, and in our resources in books and coins."
By the end of October 1952 Dewing had met with Grierson, who had agreed to come to New York the following year. Grierson had only one stipulation: "For the purpose of negotiating with the University authorities here," Grierson wrote to West, "I asked Mr Dewing whether we could evolve together any kind of formal title under which I would be working. We agreed that I should be invited to go as Visiting Lecturer, but that my primary duties should be of a research character, although you would expect me to be available for consultation and discussion during your summer seminar, to give some lectures in the seminar itself, and to be free to accept invitations from Universities to lecture, if I received them while in America."
Grierson eventually visited the ANS from July through December 1953. During his stay he gave two lectures to Seminar students—one on "The Transition from Medieval to Modern Coinage" and a second on "The Coinage of the Merovingian Franks." He also read a paper at the Society's Fall membership meeting on "The Origins of Modern Coin Portraiture." Inspired by his trip, Grierson would return to America and the ANS numerous times during the rest of his life.
Since 1953, the Society has retained one Visiting Scholar for each session of its Summer Seminar, although for eight years, from the late fifties through the early sixties, the Society had two scholars in attendance for each year. There have been only two years—1956 and 1981—when scholars did not participate. And except for one year, 2001, the scholar has always come from a European or Middle Eastern institution.