The 2007 Summer Seminar

by Rick Witschonke

The fifty-fourth annual Eric P. Newman Graduate Seminar will be in session from June 4 to July 27 of this year. Long considered one of the most significant ANS activities, the Seminar is designed to introduce graduate students in history, classics, art history, and related disciplines to the science of numismatics. Over the years, the Seminar has proven very successful both in training and inspiring budding numismatic scholars as well as in enabling graduates who go on to teach in their chosen field to use numismatics as an adjunct in the classroom (for a history of the Seminar, see the article in the Spring 2006 issue of the ANS Magazine).

We are fortunate this year to have Bernhard Weisser, curator at the Münzkabinett of the Staaliche Museen in Berlin, as our Visiting Scholar. Dr. Weisser is a recognized expert in Greek and Roman numismatics with dozens of publications to his credit. He will present Seminar sessions on Roman Imperial and Provincial Coinages, Coins from Excavations, the RPC Project, Portraits of Rulers Before Alexander, and Iconography: Aesclepius and His Family. In addition, Andrew Meadows, former curator of Greek coins at the British Museum and last year’s Visiting Scholar, will again be on the Seminar team, since he has now joined the ANS staff as Margaret Thompson Curator of Greek Coins (jointly with Peter van Alfen). Andy will be giving lectures on the History of Numismatics and Overview of Numismatic Publications, Hellenistic Coinages, Metrology and Weight Standards, and the UK Portable Antiquities Scheme. The core team will be rounded out by the ANS curators, led by Seminar Co-Directors Peter van Alfen and Rick Witschonke.

In addition to the exposure the students receive to the ANS coin cabinet, library, and staff, another benefit is the opportunity to meet the other scholars who generously volunteer to lecture at the Seminar each year. This year, in addition to Visiting Scholar Weisser, we will have lectures by Richard Stone of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Bill Metcalf, former ANS chief curator, now at Yale; Christopher Lightfoot; Roger Bagnall; Stephen Scher; Paul Keyser; Ben Damsky; and Liv Yarrow. The complete schedule may be viewed on the ANS Web site (http://www.numismatics.org), and some of the lectures will be open to the public.

The 2006 Seminar introduced several innovations that proved quite popular with the students. These included the assignment of individual advisors for each student, increased “hands-on” time with the ANS collection, a coin identification exercise (each student is given a photo of an unidentified ANS coin and must learn about it and prepare a brief presentation), and a session on Legal and Ethical Issues in Numismatics.


Emily Haug

The success of the 2006 Seminar is perhaps best reflected in the comments of some of the students. Emily Haug, a graduate student at Berkeley who studied the Greek coinage of Antony and Cleopatra while at the ANS, wrote: “With all sincerity, my ANS Seminar experience went far beyond my original expectations. Not only was the basic goal of substantially increasing my numismatic knowledge accomplished in eight weeks, but the unique amicability of our group, which included the ANS staff, instructors, and fellow students, added enormously to my enjoyment. Although the scheduled seminar sessions were in themselves informative, it was more often the accessibility of the advisors and my conversations with fellow graduate students that made my time in New York so intellectually and socially stimulating. The ANS library, due to its specialized and yet comprehensive nature, was an amazing resource for a nascent numismatist like myself. Needless to say, the opportunity to browse and handle the ANS coin collection and talk to experts and collectors in the field was an exceptional learning experience. Furthermore, that the instructors were curious about our reactions to the seminar and were consistently interested in how to make improvements displayed a high degree of dedication on their part. Admittedly, I plan to proselytize the benefits of studying numismatics to my program at Berkeley in the hopes of sharing the value of this field as well as the seminar. Moreover, I was especially pleased with the encouragement and advice that Peter frequently gave us simply to enjoy our time in NYC. This included the day set aside for experiencing just part of what such a great city has to offer, including a tour of exciting lower Manhattan and a beautiful afternoon walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. And while we all worked very hard for our presentations, I looked forward to lunch every day, when many of the students ate in the ballroom and we really got to know one another as we shot the breeze. This of course extended to our candid conversations with the advisors on Friday evenings, World Cup gatherings, and much more! What else can I say about a wonderful group of people who made an opportunity like the ANS seminar all the more enriching?”

Emily made good on her promise to proselytize when she gave a talk on her Seminar experience at the San Francisco Ancient Coin Club. She will also speak on Julio-Claudian coinage from Gaul at the AAH Conference at Princeton in May, and she will be submitting her Seminar paper for publication in the next volume of the American Journal of Numismatics.


Bill Bubelis

Bill Bubelis, who is pursuing his PhD in Greek economic history at the University of Chicago and studied the coinage of the mint of Eion at the Seminar, wrote: “From the first few moments that I stepped into the ANS on Fulton Street, I felt a special camaraderie develop with my fellow seminarians as well as the staff, curatorial and administrative alike. Over the next eight weeks, which was far too short in my opinion, that sense of collaboration and genuine friendship remained palpable. Whether examining a tray of intriguing coins or at an after-hours repast, it was easy to be inspired by the work, perspectives, and goals of others, notwithstanding the diversity of ages and backgrounds.

“Some of my best moments during this seminar came during those moments of discovery that one can only wish to share with such colleagues. When I spotted an early Greek electrum coin in an electronic auction, catalogued as ‘uncertain’ but surely from the mint (Eion) whose coinage I am studying, it was my good fortune to have such a knowledgeable and enthusiastic group of curators, volunteers, and students at hand to render their various opinions. In due course, I made great strides in my project on the coins of a small archaic mint in northern Greece, given the exceptional coin cabinet of the ANS and the strength of its library. Yet most satisfying were not my own discoveries but rather to see the great progress in numismatics that all of us seminarians made in such a short time, regardless of how much knowledge we might already have possessed.

“Finally, to live and study in New York for the summer was a great thrill. Though not a stranger to the ANS and the city, I enjoyed the unique array of cultural resources here more in these eight weeks than I could have hoped, particularly for two wonderful weeks with my family. Throughout my time here, whether at Lincoln Center, traveling north along the Hudson River, or at Die Neue Gallerie, I encountered that spirit of optimism and excellence for which New York is especially known. Strangely enough, it was the very same spirit that I encountered my first day at the ANS, embodied in an exceptional group of people who made the experience unforgettable.”


Lisa Anderson

Lisa Anderson, who is in the doctoral program in classical archeology at Brown University, had this to say: “My main impression of the ANS’s summer seminar is that it was a fantastic experience I would recommend to any of my fellow students. The curators and staff are all quite knowledgeable about numismatics in general, not just about their own particular specialties, and all were very helpful in answering questions and taking care of the desires of eight very demanding students! The scheduled lectures were a great way to learn about areas of numismatics that most of us, being Hellenists and Romanists, would not have studied on our own, like renaissance medallions or medieval coinages. The way in which the basics of numismatics, like die and hoard studies and metrology, were taught made the lectures useful for those students with some prior numismatic experience as well as for those of us who were complete novices.

“One of the best things about the seminar was the opportunity for social interaction and for making professional contacts among established numismatists. The time I spent both inside and outside of the ANS with my fellow students and the lecturers was fantastic. I think it helps to generate stronger ties among the existing numismatic community as well as to help us burgeoning numismatists find our scholarly niche.”

While at the ANS, Lisa worked on a previously unpublished hoard of Athenian tetradrachms, which she will publish in an upcoming volume of the AJN.

As you can see from the comments, the class of 2006 was highly motivated, learned a lot, and thoroughly enjoyed their experience. We look forward to another successful Seminar this year and to graduating another group of students who can use the numismatic skills they acquire throughout their careers.