From the Executive Director (Summer 2007)

by Ute Wartenberg Kagan

Dear Members and Friends,

This issue of the ANS Magazine focuses on the exhibitions of the American Numismatic Society, an aspect of our curatorial work that does not receive sufficient recognition. I suspect the primary reason is that most of our long-term exhibitions are not housed in our own building. In our former building on Audubon Terrace, the ANS maintained two exhibition areas. But due to our location in upper Manhattan, not many visitors came to the ANS, a fate shared by other museums located “off the beaten track,” such as the Hispanic Society of America and the Museum of the American Indian. During the 1980s, the ANS began to work with other museums in the United States and abroad in order to better share its many treasures. One of our most successful collaborations, with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, started almost a decade ago, when Carmen Arnold-Biucchi curated the coin exhibit in the Archaic and Classical galleries. Since then a Byzantine, a Cypriot, and now a Hellenistic and Roman group of coins have been added. The Metropolitan Museum exhibits more ancient coins than any other museum in the United States. In April of this year, the new Hellenistic and Roman galleries opened to the public after an extensive renovation project.

Staff from the Met and the ANS selected coins to complement the ancient art and objects. In the case of the Hellenistic Gallery, the ANS was able to provide some of its best coins with royal portraits. Such coins are not only of interest to art historians but also to numismatists, as coins of this period after Alexander the Great display many of the features that today are common on coins. It is in this period, for instance, that the eagle becomes a prominent emblem on coins. It was coins of the Ptolemies of Egypt, which are now on display at the Metropolitan Museum, that inspired Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create his famous designs. For anyone interested in ancient art or Roman life, I highly recommend a visit to the beautiful new galleries at the Met.

I am also pleased that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where our exhibition “Drachmas, Doubloons, and Dollars: A History of Money” is housed, will continue to provide us space and support for another five years. This popular exhibition displays many of the treasures of the ANS as well as the famed 1933 Double Eagle. We are most grateful for the loan of this amazing item by its owner. Over forty thousand visitors a year visit this exhibition. Later this year, we will open an exhibition to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Saint-Gaudens‘ twenty-dollar gold piece. In conjunction with the Saint Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire, where Saint-Gaudens lived and worked, the ANS will mount a display of the history of America‘s most famous coin. Many objects that have never been exhibited will be on display for the first time.

I am also most grateful to ANS Fellow Q. David Bowers for contributing an article about the splendid gold exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, which features many interesting items from the ANS and our member Dwight Manley‘s collection. It is a hugely popular show in New York, and it will be traveling to other locations in the United States. I hope that many of our members will come to see this amazing display and the others the ANS has mounted. For those of you unable to visit, all of our loaned material can be seen on our Web site, http://www.numismatics.org. Our curatorial staff dedicates a significant amount of their time in organizing loans, writing exhibition labels, and researching subjects for special exhibitions, and the results of their efforts are well worth the visit!

With best wishes,

Ute Wartenberg Kagan