Numismatics​.org (Summer 2002)

by Sebastian Heath

The ANS database describing the numismatic objects in the Society’s collection is available and free for all users via the Society’s web-site. This column will introduce a few of the basic and more advanced features that will allow readers to make effective use of this tool.

The URL lists three options under ‘Coin and Other Objects Search Forms’. The first, ‘Simple Keyword Search,’ is useful when you want to search for a few keywords, such as ‘augustus biga’ or ‘lincoln memorial’ (the database is case-insensitive). Either of these searches will return all records that contain both of the entered words. The simple search form does not, however, allow you to search for objects by material or type, such as coin or medal. For that you need to use the ‘Search by Fields’ form.

‘Search by Fields’ allows you to specify quite sophisticated searches that should satisfy many needs. The first three options on the left side of the screen let you type in keywords as on the simple form but also let you restrict your search to only certain fields in the database. For example, searching for ‘Boston’ only in the ‘Reverse Type’ field will bring up objects, including many medals and decorations, that depict that city. It is always possible to limit your search to records that are illustrated with a digital image by checking the ‘Image Available’ box. At the time of writing, doing so called up the “Washington before Boston” medals that are currently on display at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Many of the options on this search form — such as department, material, and object type — are easily understood. ‘Department’ refers to the section of the collection in which the object is kept, ‘Material’ is just that, and ‘Object Type’ allows you to search by the controlled vocabulary that we use to put our collection into broad categories.

Some of the search options require more explanation. ‘Reference’ is usually an abbreviation the standard catalog used to describe the coins in a series followed by a number that identifies that particular type. Searching for ‘c.44.*’ in the Roman department will bring up all the variants of Crawford’s type 44, which is associated with the initiation of the denarius system in approximately 211 BC. Note that you can include a ‘*’ at the end of search terms to find all words that begin with certain characters. This feature will work in most fields.

‘Accession Number’ allows you to search on the unique number that we assign to each object. Why would you want to do this? Try searching for accession numbers that begin with ‘200’ for which there are images available. Do this by typing ‘200*’, without the quotes, into ‘Accession Number.’ Then click the ‘Image Available’ box. Initiating this search by clicking the ‘Find’ button will generate a list of the objects given to the Society since fiscal year 2000 for which images are available. This is over 200 objects, many of which are interesting and important additions to the collections. This search is not just an example of the flexibility that the ‘Search by Fields’ form allows. It also shows how quickly new donations to the Society become part of the publicly available numismatic record.

These examples show only part of the utility of the ANS search tools. Next time I’ll continue this tour of the database with a focus on searching by date and on using the Society’s collection of digital images. Until then please use the database and send me your reactions.