From the Executive Director (Summer 2004)

by Ute Wartenberg Kagan

Dear Members and Friends,

This ANS Magazine is the first issue that the ANS staff wrote in their new offices in downtown Manhattan. In the middle of July the last moving truck left our building on Audubon Terrace to deliver some shelves and a few old desks to our new location on Fulton Street. Although I was very eager to see our new headquarters ready for business, I had mixed feelings when I saw room after room being slowly emptied out at our old building; a great deal had happened within those walls, and a great deal of that history had accumulated in various forms over the years. An astonishing amount of material was left after the coins and the books were all gone. There were thousands of slides, the enormous photo file of auction catalog records, paintings (some great finds, but more on this in a later issue), sculptures, and some beautiful furniture. It was not always easy to find the gems among the many fifteen-year-old computers, miscellaneous boxes of typewriter ribbons, broken chairs, and reams of membership material. We did, however, take the time to sort through the old membership information, and so looked through thousands of boxes and packages. There again we found several treasures, including a turn-of-the-century questionnaire that prospective members around 1900 were required to fill-out; among the questions were details of family, education, and personal information that most members today would find intrusive, if not offensive. Needless to say, we’ve learned a great deal from these questionnaires about some of our earliest members! When all was said and done, it took over four months of almost daily moving before the building uptown was at last empty.

This summer’s issue features an article by our archivist, Joe Ciccone, on the history of our old building and its neighborhood Washington Heights. Joe, who works part-time for the Society, has done an amazing job with our archival holdings, and a lot of wonderful letters, papers, and photographs are now available for perusal and research. What used to be a mass of dusty boxes and loose folders tucked away in dark corners of the old basement is now a well-organized (and well-lit!), modern archives department overseeing 500 neatly labeled containers. The website of the archives department is also expanding, and I encourage everyone to look at these interesting, frequently changing pages As our 150th anniversary is drawing closer, we plan to make use of this archival material for a new volume that will cover the history of the Society from 1958 to the present day, much in the same way that Howard Adelson’s 1958 volume covered the history of the Society’s first century (sadly, Prof. Adelson passed away recently; his obituary is found in this issue). Articles in this volume by some of our volunteers, interns, and this year’s Visiting Scholar, Michel Amandry, also provide insight into the everyday work of the ANS. We are very grateful to all of them for their interest, enthusiasm and hard work.

We will not, however, rest on our laurels, or catch our breath after this long, hard move. Our next big goal is to raise enough money to create a stable endowment to ensure that our new building will always be fully staffed, fully functioning, and open to serve you. I am delighted that our Board of Trustees is expanding and that some very distinguished numismatists have agreed to serve, and so are helping the American Numismatic Society begin its new era in downtown Manhattan. I am inviting all our members to join in this endeavor. It seems particularly important at a time when our national numismatic collection at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., has closed its doors to the general public that we at the ANS create a lasting, welcoming environment for collectors, academics, and the general public at large. I hope that we at the ANS can count on your support.

Yours truly,
Ute Wartenberg Kagan