Numismatics​.org (Winter 2002)

by Sebastian Heath

This column will continue the tutorial on using the Society’s public database, as well as introduce the society’s archive of digital images. But first some news.

The conversion of the ANS databases to FileMaker Pro is largely complete. The greatest benefit of this for external users is more regular updating of the records on the web-site. Updates now happens every Friday evening, which means that the database is unavailable for approximately one hour while the data is reloaded. This is a great improvement over the previous situation in which the whole export and import process could take 4 to 5 hours and required close attention. One implication of this is that when typos and other errors are brought to our attention, the edits we make to the internal database are quickly available on the web version.

Another significant improvement has been the upgrading of the operating system and database software on the web-server. All the public search tools are implemented using PostgreSQL running on a Debian GNU/Linux server. This software is freely available on the Internet and has proved very reliable. Keeping current with the latest versions of both systems means that all but the most complex searches are now completed within seconds.

This week’s tutorial subject is searching by date. For many objects in the collection this is quite straightforward so long as you keep one simple convention in mind. Most objects have a start date and end date that indicates when the piece was manufactured. The only “trick” is that we use negative numbers to indicate dates BCE. This means that the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, runs from “-27” to “14”. Also, searching by date is only available from the more advanced “Search by Fields” form. Figure 1 shows the results of a search for gold coins dating between 100 and 200 in the Roman department that have images available.

This search and its results bring up the topic of the Society’s growing archive of digital images. As announced in previous volumes of the magazine, the ANS owns a Nikon D1x digital camera. We use this to take pictures for our own research and to fill photo orders. All of the images that we take of objects are copied to the web-server and integrated into the database.

There are two keys to using the image archive. The first is very simple, if you want to restrict your search to objects for which an image is available, just click the “Image Available” check box on the search form. The second involves using the “Format” menu. You can see in figure 1 that the “Images Only” format was chosen. This means that your browser will show a grid of small thumb-nail images. If you want to see the information for each coin as well as an image, choose the “Full with Images” format. There are currently images for over 3000 coins, medals, notes, and other objects. While this is a tiny fraction of our objects, it already shows the great variety of the Society’s collection.

One note. The images are for personal use only and we ask that readers contact Dr. Elena Stolyarik to arrange permission to reproduce them in print or electronic form. The rates for digital photography and reproduction rights can be seen at