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Managing the Collection: An Interview with Dr. Elena Stolyarik

Dr. Elena Stolyarik, Collections Manager at the American Numismatic Society, has held nearly every single one of the Society’s over 800,000 objects. As a critical member of the curatorial staff, the Collections Manager diligently maintains the Society’s vast, encyclopedic holdings of coins and currency, medals and money—all behind the scenes. Dr. Stolyarik’s background in museological, archaeological, and numismatic methods gives her a unique perspective on the purpose and function of the ANS. Prior to coming to the ANS in 1994, she led the Numismatic Department at the Odessa Archaeological Museum, excavated at Tyras on the Black Sea, and was a research associate at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. In an interview at the Society’s headquarters in New York City, Dr. Stolyarik and Assistant Director Austin Goodwin Andrews discussed her work and the particularities of the Society and its holdings.

Austin Goodwin Andrews: What is the role of the Collections Manager at a research institution like the ANS, where object care and curation are so intermingled? 

Elena Stolyarik: First of all, it means that you are a part of the professional team of one of the oldest museums and research institutions in the United States. The Society has been dedicated to researching numismatic objects and popularizing the field of numismatics since it was founded in 1858. Over the past 163 years, the Society obtained the objects in its collection from a range of sources, including from generous donations, bequests, and purchases. These and any new acquisitions should be properly maintained, preserved, and archived according to established museum practices and procedures. As the Collections Manager, I have several obligations. I register and manage documentation for all new museum objects, including accessioning and deaccessioning, cataloging, inventories, and other records. All of us in the curatorial department share responsibilities. We work as a team to ensure the collection is well cared for, documented, and made accessible to the public and for research. Because every one of us can replace each other when necessary, these are our mutual jobs.

AGA: I enjoy reading your column in the ANS Magazine with highlights of recent acquisitions. Before you write these, I know a lot of work goes into processing objects and accessioning them to be part of the Society’s collection, officially. What does the process of accessioning look like at the ANS?

ES: To accession objects, I prepare a list of gifts or purchases for the Trustees to approve. After approval, I register them, assign a group number, and then catalogue each object individually. We have a computer program set up with the correct fields. I indicate what we received and from whom we received. I write a short description and give each item its unique accession number. The curators also assign accession numbers, but I often accession Greek, Roman, and Byzantine coins and for the Medals Department.

Before we accession objects, we need to be sure that they have a proper provenance, especially for ancient and medieval coins. We need to confirm that an object was not stolen from an excavation or taken illegally out of another country; we need to be sure that nobody will claim that this is their property. After accessioning, I give materials to our exceptional photographer, Alan Roche, and I write about a few examples for the magazine. When Alan is done with photographing, we insert them into the appropriate trays in our vault. When someone visits for research or a curator needs to find something, we need to know exactly where everything sits. Objects are grouped by periods, mints, or another system. If we have twenty coins from Roman Alexandria from the second or third centuries, they need to be inserted with the other coins from this mint, according to chronology. On the back of the box, we indicate who made the donation. 

Before our move to digitizing the collection, this process was done on a card the same way books are processed in a library. Now, I register and catalogue on our computer program and this creates an electronic record. We also make records of what we’ve cataloged available publicly with high-resolution images through our online collections database, MANTIS. After that, we have another back-up record: I put all of this information in our huge accession book.

AGA: You’re also involved with exhibitions and oversee all of the loans we make to other institutions. While the ANS regularly loans objects to major museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York or the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, we have loans to much smaller organizations, too, like the Bechtler House in rural North Carolina. What are some interesting examples of loans you’ve helped arrange? 

ES: This is also my job: to keep track of loans, to process new loans, to renew loans, for sending insurance and loan agreements. Along with the curatorial staff, I provide consultation services, help with selections and installations of our objects, and serve as courier to the borrowing institutions to accompany our loans. Today, we have over 380 objects on view in permanent, temporary, and traveling exhibitions. We don’t have space for a big exposition here at the ANS, but we maintain our own Exhibition Hall with several cases on display to introduce our visitors to the history of numismatics. At the end of the year, the curatorial staff organizes a display with new annual acquisitions.

When we had the original screw-press for the gold Bechtler dollars in a popular exhibit at the Federal Reserve, someone visiting from the Bechtler House saw it there and coordinated requesting the loan. This unique artifact became the centerpiece in their exhibition at the historic home of Christopher Bechtler in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. This is very important because, year after year, people can now visit this house and they can see real history: not only the coins, but they can see how these coins were produced.

We had another interesting experience participating in an unusual exhibit organized by BVLGARI, known for its glamorous luxury products. This show, which was organized at their flagship store on Fifth Avenue, connected ancient Rome and the luxury brand since it was founded in Rome in 1884. It provided an opportunity to display some extraordinary objects from the ANS Roman Department, including a portrait coin of Julius Caesar and a remarkable example of a silver tetradrachm of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, among others.

We have objects at some of the best museums in the US and abroad. The Met often has objects from the ANS for temporary exhibits—such as their successful World between Empires exhibit about art and identity in the ancient Middle East—but they also prominently display our numismatic objects in their permanent exhibits.

I can think of many other interesting examples. The Jefferson Foundation at Monticello has displayed our silver Thomas Jefferson Indian Peace Medal since 1992 and War and Peace in Miniature: Medals from the American Numismatic Society was recently on temporary display at the Education Center at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. For several years, an exhibition organized by the American Museum of Natural History, called GOLD, traveled with over 70 gold coins from our collections and the Israel Museum presented a temporary exhibit with our material dedicated to the extraordinary discovery of Herod’s tomb at Herodium. The Block Museum of Art organized a traveling exhibit, Caravans of Gold, about cultural and economic exchanges across the Sahara Desert in the medieval period. This show was exhibited at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto and then traveled to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, where it will be on view until February 2022. All of these loans make our collection even more accessible to people around the world. Coins and medals and other objects from the ANS enrich exhibitions with sometimes very different topics.

AGA: This year has seen a lot of important discourse around how we collectively acknowledge and commemorate aspects of the past. Unlike memorial statues or public plaques, the money and medals in the ANS collection are contextualized, studied, and criticized without necessarily glorifying what they represent. How can the collection be a tool for education and deeper inquiry into these subjects? 

ES: It’s why museums are so important. Each museum aims to preserve knowledge for many generations—information which should be accessible not for one year or two years, but it should be for a thousand years. For me, it’s about the preservation of historical sources. This is our mission and it’s an educational mission. We preserve to teach. 

To examine an idea, you should use as many different sources as you can, to understand it. For history, this can include different literary sources, archaeological sources, and also numismatics. You can look at ancient coins, like the coins of Lysimachus or Ptolemy, and you can see faces. This is astonishing because you can see what they really looked like or how they wanted to be seen from thousands of years ago. I believe numismatics is a valuable kind of evidence for history and for teaching about the past. The Virginia Museum of History and Culture displayed the Society’s Butler silver medal of the Army of the James, which was given to Black soldiers in the Civil War, who were integral in winning the war and abolishing slavery in United States. It might be surprising, but this is why it’s important to see and learn the stories from these objects. 

Along with written historical sources, epigraphic, archaeological, and numismatic sources are a materialization of the past. I still believe that you cannot remove from history difficult events, that you cannot erase the past. You can only learn from it. Coins and other artifacts show us how the world really was in a particular time and place, what was valued and who was in power. Coins are not just dead objects. They can talk, if you listen—if you really want to listen. This is ultimately the purpose of our collection, to allow for this kind of careful study.

AGA: Over the years, you have supported many scholars and researchers as they access the collection to conduct their research. From your perspective, what are the most studied areas of the collection and which could use more attention? 

ES: The current most popular areas for study at the ANS are ancient numismatics, medals, and US material. A lot of people—especially from universities—visit to research ancient material because it’s the basis of their thesis or part of some study. The medieval and Islamic collections are less studied, but that, I think, is due to colleges not offering as many courses in the same way. Classes on the ancient Mediterranean exist and classes on the ancient Roman economy exist, but there are fewer programs in medieval studies like this. We have a brilliant curator of our Medieval Department, David Yoon, who is a well-educated historian, archaeologist, and numismatist. He’s currently leading our new project to digitize the medieval collection, which will put more images and updated information on our database. David does a lot to popularize this area of study and this project will open new opportunities for new research.

Because we are in the United States, there are many people interested in American history—and the ANS’s collection includes a large number of items in the US portion of the Medals Department and in the American Coins Department. On the other hand, if you look at our Summer Seminar, it’s less common for graduate students to come and research US material, even though there are many people interested in American numismatics. Right now, it’s wonderful for us to have someone who is so knowledgeable like Jesse Kraft, who is the Assistant Curator of American Numismatics. I see big potential for our new curatorial staff like him and Lucia Carbone, the Assistant Curator of Roman Coins, who is very hard-working and energetic.

Our chief curator, Peter van Alfen, is also great because he understands people, as a colleague and as an educator. His expertise in the Greek Department and passion for medallic art continues to drive the traditional areas of study at the ANS, while he also spearheads many of our recent innovations and digital efforts. All of our curators are very educated and professional; they conduct their own research and enjoy supporting other scholars and institutions for their research, too. We have very enthusiastic people here at the ANS. Along with our collection, this is our great strength.

The Centennial of the J. Sanford Saltus Award

Mashiko receives the J. Sanford Saltus Award from Donald Scarinci, chair of the Award Committee.
Mashiko receives the J. Sanford Saltus Award from Donald Scarinci, chair of the Award Committee.

The eponymous J. Sanford Saltus Award was initiated in 1913 by J. Sanford Saltus, who donated $5,000 (roughly the equivalent of $120,000 today) to the ANS to establish a permanent fund for the striking of a medal to reward and recognize sculptors “for distinguished achievement in the field of the art of the medal.” Since 1919, when the first Saltus Award was given, the Society has selected 58 outstanding medallic artists to receive what has become one of the most coveted and prestigious awards in the field. On December 12, we honored our 59th recipient, the New York City-based artist, Mashiko. Examples of the work of all of our Saltus award recipients over the last century can be viewed in an exhibit in our Member’s Lounge, which was assembled by Elena Stolyarik, Scott Miller, and Peter van Alfen.

The centennial exhibit of J. Sanford Saltus' medals is currently on display in the ANS Members' Lounge.
The  exhibit of medallic art from present and past recipients of the  J. Sanford Saltus Award is currently on display in the ANS Members’ Lounge.

Saltus, like many of his peers on the Society’s Council at the time, was a strong supporter of contemporary medallic artists, who sought as well to encourage greater appreciation for their work among the Society’s members. This same initiative continues to this day. The ANS is firmly committed to supporting the medallic arts not just through the prestigious Saltus Award, but also through our own commissions of medallic art, our teaching, and our publications, which feature a medallic art series. The latest volume in this series, in fact, just appeared last week: Michael Ross’s study of Jacques Wiener’s architectural medals.  Most significantly, the ANS purchased the archives of the Medallic Arts Company in 2018, including 50,000 individual items such as medals, dies, galvanos, plaques, and paper and digital archives, that we aim to publish and make available to the public.

Mashiko, ANS Executive Director Gilles Bransbourg, and Donald Scarinci
Mashiko, ANS Executive Director Gilles Bransbourg, and Donald Scarinci

It had been intended that the Saltus Award would be given on an annual basis, but already in the 1920s and 1930s there were years when there was no award, included the nine-year gap between 1937 and 1946 roughly coinciding with the Second World War. In more recent years, the Award has been given every 2–3 years with the delays caused in part by the cumbersome arrangement of the Saltus Award Committee itself consisting of more than a dozen voting members, and in part by a persistent lack of supporting funds. In 2017, the Society’s then-Executive Director, Ute Wartenberg, and the Committee’s secretary, Peter van Alfen, proposed to the Board of Trustees a new arrangement for the Committee, which it was hoped would help speed the selection process and allow for the Award to be given once again on an annual basis. With the Board’s approval, the Award Committee was pared down to five voting members consisting of Donald Scarinci as chair (replacing Stephen Scher, whose nearly two decades of service as chair is most appreciated), Ute Wartenberg, Peter van Alfen (secretary), Gwen Pier (Executive Director, National Sculpture Society), and until recently, Luke Syson (then Curator in Charge of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art). In addition, the Committee now has an Advisory Board, chaired by Philip Attwood (Keeper of Coins and Medals, British Museum), to help form a pool of suitable candidates from which the Committee then selects a winner. This Board is comprised of curators and other individuals particularly well versed in contemporary medallic art including: Marjan Scharloo (Director of the Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands); Maria Rosa Figueiredo (Curator, Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal); Gunnel Sievers (Past President of the Guild of the Medal in Finland); Erika Grniakova (Curator, Coin and Medal Museum, Kremnica, Slovakia); Bernhard Weisser (Director of the Münzkabinett, Berlin, Germany); Alan Stahl (Curator, Firestone Library, Princeton University); and Mashiko, who was kept unaware of her nomination for the Award. This new arrangement went into effect in the summer of 2017 and since then the ANS has again been presenting the Saltus award on an annual basis.

The 63rd Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar in Numismatics

2017Seminar

On June 5th, the 63rd Graduate Summer Seminar in Numismatics, which has been generously sponsored by Eric P. Newman, began at the ANS under the direction of Dr. Peter van Alfen. Since 1952, the Society has offered select graduate students and junior faculty the opportunity to work hands-on with its preeminent numismatic collections. The rigorous eight-week course, taught by ANS staff, guest lecturers, and a Visiting Scholar, introduces students to the methods, theories, and history of the discipline. In addition to the lecture program, students select a numismatic research topic and, utilizing ANS resources, complete a paper while in residence. The Seminar is intended to provide students of Classical Studies, History, Art History, Textual Studies, and Archeology who have little or no numismatic background with a working knowledge of a body of evidence that is often overlooked and poorly understood.

This year’s Visiting Scholar is Dr. Thomas Faucher of the Institut de recherche sur les archéomatériaux, Centre Ernest-Babelon, part of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and the Université d’Orléans (Orléans, France). Dr. Faucher is, among other things, a specialist in ancient coin production and Ptolemaic coinages. In addition we welcome eight students who come to us from McMaster University, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (NYU), the University of Delaware, the University of Houston, and Rutgers University.

Learn more about the Seminar.

 

 

A New Lecture Series: “Money Talks: Numismatic Conversations”

moneytalks

The ANS curators and fellows are pleased to announce a new lecture series, “Money Talks: Numismatic Conversations.” In this monthly interactive lecture series, appropriate for all levels of coin collectors and enthusiasts, attendees will view relevant coins, banknotes, or medals while learning about the broader world of numismatics. Light meals will be served, and Q&A sessions will follow. To ensure these events are as accessible as possible to all, most will take place on Saturdays at the ANS headquarters in New York City. On a few occasions, these Numismatic Conversations will take place at other venues.

During Saturday Numismatic Conversations at the ANS, the Society will be open from 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm, so you have the opportunity to view items in our collections or library.

When taking place at the ANS, the fee will be $20 for ANS members, $50 for non-members. Pricing for other venues will be determined.

The series kicked off at the ANS on February 11 with lectures by Peter van Alfen, Gilles Bransbourg, and Ute Wartenberg on “The Origins of Money.” This lecture  considered the beginnings of money and its various guises including cut silver in the ancient Near East, early electrum coinage of Asia Minor, early bronze objects, bars and heavy coins in Italy and the spread of cowries in the Indian Ocean area, Eastern Africa and South Asia, including China.

Next Lecture: March 11

The next lecture in the series will be on Saturday, March 11, at the ANS at 1:00 pm, by Vivek Gupta, “The Beginnings of Islamic Coinage.” This talk will introduce members to the beginnings of Islamic coinage in the seventh century and its vast trajectories within the Arab lands and beyond. It will begin with an in-depth survey of its Byzantine and Sasanian precedents and will provide a basic outline of “Arab-Sasanian” and “Arab-Byzantine” types. Members will also learn about the styles of Arabic calligraphy that were used on early Islamic coins. Members will be able to view and handle fine examples of the ANS’s Islamic holdings with Assistant Curator, Vivek Gupta.

Lunch will be served at 1:00 pm, followed by the lecture at 2:00 pm, and Q&A at 3:00 pm. The ANS will remain open from 12 noon until 4:00 pm. RSVPCatherine DiTuri, (212) 571-4470 #117

Highlights of upcoming lectures (full brochure to follow):

Saturday, May 6

Gilles Bransbourg, “Signs of Inflation.”

Dr. Bransbourg will look at how inflation translates into coinage debasement and banknotes bearing large denominations, from ancient Rome to modern Zimbabwe.

Saturday, May 6, 2017, at 1:00 pm. American Numismatic Society. Lunch served at 1:00 pm, followed by the lecture at 2:00 pm, Q&A at 3:00 pm. The ANS will remain open from 12 noon until 4:00 pm.

David Hendin, “Ancient Jewish Coinage.”

Mr. Hendin will discuss the origins and production of ancient Jewish Coinage from the Persian era until the time of the revolts against Rome.

Date: TBA. Venue: American Numismatic Society.

Alan Roche, “The Art of Photographing Coins.”

Mr. Roche will consider the various aspects involved in the production of high resolution images of coins and banknotes. A hands-on photographic demonstration will be included.

Date: TBA. American Numismatic Society.

Mark Tomasko, “Representations on US Banknotes.”

Date: TBA. American Numismatic Society.

Jonathan Kagan, “Numismatic Book Collecting.”

Mr. Kagan will talk on collecting early books, particularly those with a focus on numismatics.

Date: TBA. Venue: American Numismatic Society.

Speakers: TBA “Wine and Money.”

In this lecture we will consider the strong relationships between coinage, banknotes, and wine throughout history and cultures.

Date and Venue: TBA.

Please mark your calendars and plan on joining us for these informal programs in a relaxed and social environment.

Reserve your spot!

For further information, please contact:

Catherine DiTuri, (212) 571-4470 #117

Gilles Bransbourg, (212) 571-4470 #156

Wealth and Warfare: The Archaeology of Money in Ancient Syria

duyrat-book-jacket

The American Numismatic Society is proud to announce the publication of Wealth and Warfare: The Archaeology of Money in Ancient Syria, by Frédérique Duyrat. Syria has been the theater of one of the most barbarous wars of the last centuries, characterized by war crimes and persecution of civilians. Beyond the human aspect of this conflict, one of the distinctive features of the war in Syria has been the treatment of cultural heritage. It takes two different forms. The most obvious is the systematic destruction of historical artifacts and remains by ISIS, dubbed “cultural cleansing” by UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova. There is a second aspect to the “cultural strategy” of ISIS. This group is completely different from all the preceding forms of international terrorist organizations since it is only marginally dependent on foreign funding and has accumulated an impressive war chest. The traffic of antiquities has, among other activities, become an essential resource for the group. The income represented by looting and illegal traffic of antiquities has been estimated at around $200 million per year, and may represent the second largest source of income for ISIS. Moreover, the chaos caused by this multiparty war is beneficial to different groups of looters, whatever the cause they defend.

It is extremely difficult to identify objects that come from looting. If they have never been catalogued by a museum or in archaeological records, they have no established provenance. The sand or earth remaining on those artifacts is often the only sign of a recent archaeological discovery. Coins are even more difficult to trace to their source. Mass-produced in large numbers and often circulating over wide areas, they have an intrinsic value when struck in precious metal, as well as an artistic and historical interest. Moreover, they can be easily found with basic metal detectors. Official alerts regarding the looting of coins are extremely rare, although coins are often found in illegal commerce, or in military raids. If the recently publicized documents photographed by the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology are authentic, it is noticeable that the licenses for looting granted by ISIS to individuals cover “collecting antiquities and buried money.” Moreover, the looters’ interest in numismatics has been emphasized by the discovery, in June 2015, of an ISIS cache containing weapons and a book with articles on numismatics. As noted by Ute Wartenberg, it is an academic book probably stolen from a museum library, and it contains useful numismatic overviews on coinage issued in Syria from the fifth century BCE to Byzantine times.

In such a context, the role of the historian of antiquity is particularly crucial: to gather all that can allow us to reconstitute this endangered past, to interpret the artifacts, to make them available for future generations in a future time of peace when people will be able to rediscover their roots. But how can numismatics be involved in such an important mission? Coins are tiny, scattered, and they require highly specialized skills to be interpreted. Even studied with care, they remain difficult to understand as a whole. One of the reasons why coins are such a difficult source is their number: issued in the millions, lost or hoarded in the tens of thousands, they form an ocean in which the non-specialist feels lost. To study the coinages of an entire region is a way to approach coins as a single source. Moreover, to study ancient Syria through this particular source sheds light on new aspects of the past of a region currently devastated by war. This is what author Frédérique Duyrat has done in Wealth and Warfare. The Archaeology of Money in Ancient Syria.

This book assembles for the first time the evidence for coin finds in the region of ancient Syria from the 5th to the 1st century BCE. A full catalogue of all known coin hoards and published excavation finds serves as the basis for an explanation of monetary behavior in an area extending over parts of modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey. In seven chapters of analysis, Duyrat establishes the limits of what we can learn from coin circulation, to compare the data from commerce to the data from legal excavations, to try to understand the chronological evolution of coin circulation and how much political events or warfare affect it, and to evaluate what coin finds tell us of the wealth and poverty of the people who assembled them. One chapter is devoted to how the contemporary history of the countries within the scope of this study has influenced the documentation. This book determines more precisely than ever what circulated in the ancient Near East and can provide the patterns by which to evaluate the loss suffered by the cultural heritage of this region.

About the author: Frédérique Duyrat is director of the Department of Coins, Medals, and Antiques of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and is associated to the research team Orient et Méditerranée—Mondes sémitiques (University Paris–Sorbonne) and the Ecole doctorale Archéologie of the University Paris I–Panthéon Sorbonne. She has written and edited more than 50 books and articles on the coinage, history and archaeology of ancient Syria and Phoenicia.

Wealth and Warfare: The Archaeology of Money in Ancient Syria

Numismatic Studies 34, ISSN 0517-404-x

ISBN 978-0-89722-346-1

Hardcover, 600 pages, b/w figures, tables

Wealth and Warfare is available for purchase through the ANS’s book distribution partner Casemate Academic/Oxbow Books. ANS Members qualify for a member discount and should write to Andrew Reinhard, ANS Director of Publications,  for the online discount code.

If It’s Baroque, Someone Should Fix It!

by Elizabeth Hahn Benge, previous ANS Librarian

Truer words could not be said by someone with a passion for ancient history, especially when the baroque takes over the ancient. Such is the case with a Roman Bust of Antinous in the collection of the Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, in Rome. After the original ancient Roman face was broken at some unknown time, the bust received a “new” baroque-style face that was added by the mid-18th century. To many viewers, it is apparent that the face does not match the style of the rest of the bust and is a restoration added later. But then what happened to the original face?

The answer can be found in a new exhibition titled A Portrait of Antinous, in Two Parts, at the Art Institute of Chicago that opened on April 2, 2016. Loans from the American Numismatic Society help introduce Antinous—the Greek youth and companion of Roman emperor Hadrian, who mysteriously drowned in the Nile River in A.D. 130—and his enduring interest throughout history. The ANS loans include four bronze coins of Antinous (1967.152.356; 1944.100.62226; 1944.100.58522; 1944.100.58531) and a 1711 book from the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Library. The coins demonstrate the same iconographic features that were likely inspired by sculptures of the same type of Antinous: broad shoulders, bare chest, and lush, curly hair.

ANS 1944.100.62226
ANS 1944.100.62226

The show brings together years of research that took place to determine whether or not the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous was the original face of the Bust of Antinous (inv. no. 8620) that belongs to the Palazzo Altemps museum, a suggestion first put forth by W. Raymond Johnson, Egyptologist at the University of Chicago. Since the “new” face that the Palazzo Altemps bust received is part of the sculpture’s history, it could not be removed, and added to the challenges of understanding if, and how, the Art Institute’s fragment might have fit. But—Spoiler Alert!—it did!

Left: Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous, mid-2nd century A.D. Roman. Gift of Mrs. Charles L. Hutchinson. Right: Bust of Antinous, mid-2nd century A.D. Roman, with 18th-century restorations. Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, Rome, 8620. Archivio Fotografico SS-Col, num. 589475. Photo by Stefano Castellani.
Left: Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous, mid-2nd century A.D. Roman. Gift of Mrs. Charles L. Hutchinson.
Right: Bust of Antinous, mid-2nd century A.D. Roman, with 18th-century restorations. Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, Rome, 8620. Archivio Fotografico SS-Col, num. 589475. Photo by Stefano Castellani.

This conclusion, and the years of research that led to it, are the focus of the exhibition. Modern 3D printing technology was used to create a mold from which a plaster replica was made in order for the team to effectively demonstrate that the two parts were in fact originally part of one ancient bust. The show is centered around these two parts: the fragment of a portrait head from the Art Institute and the bust from the Palazzo Altemps, which are displayed together along with the full-scale plaster cast reconstruction that gives the impression of its original appearance in antiquity.

The exhibition further tells how the fragment ended up in Chicago, an ocean away from its original location. A video documenting the research and creation of the plaster cast accompanies the show, while a timeline of events spans nearly 40 feet of wall in the gallery. I’ve had fun working on this project, and it is a fascinating story with a lot of content, which can be difficult to convey through photographs alone, and is one of many reasons I hope readers will be able to visit the show in person!

A Portrait of Antinous, in Two Parts will be on display through August 28, 2016, at The Art Institute of Chicago.

The exhibition website can be found here.

And the video that is also part of the exhibition can be found here.

 

Dr. Aneurin Ellis-Evans Redefines Attic Weight Coinage

Dr. Aneurin Ellis-Evans delivers the Fowler lecture at the ANS.
Dr. Aneurin Ellis-Evans delivers the Harry W. Fowler lecture at the ANS.

On April 12, Dr. Aneurin Ellis-Evans of Oxford University delivered the 2016 Harry W. Fowler Memorial Lecture, “Imperialism and Regionalism in the Athenian Empire: an Attic Weight Coinage from North-West Turkey and its Afterlife (427-405 BC).”

View the complete lecture here.

lecture2
Dr. Ellis-Evans makes his case regarding Attic weight standards.

Dr. Ellis-Evans holds degrees from Balliol College and New College, Oxford, with a particular interest in the social and economic history of the ancient world. In particular, he is intrigued by the relationship between geography and history, and will be publishing his PhD thesis exploring this theme with OUP as The Kingdom of Priam: The Troad between Anatolia and the Aegean. Since completing his doctoral studies in 2013, he has written numerous articles and reviews, and presented on a variety of topics relating to the Classical and Post-Classical worlds.

lecture1
The Harry W. Fowler Memorial Lecture was established in 1998 with a bequest from Mr. Fowler and with additional gifts from the Fowler family. Harry W. Fowler served as President of the American Numismatic Society from 1984-1990, and for his personal generosity was named a Benefactor of the Society in 1986. In 1995 he bequeathed his collection of Bactrian coins to the ANS, which together with the Society’s already strong holdings, has created one of the most comprehensive collections of Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coins.

ANS Acquires Authentic Banksy £10 Diana Note

BanksyNote-ANS
ANS 2016.9.1

The ANS recently acquired a £10 “Di-faced” banknote created by the street artist Banksy (active 1992–). The note was purchased at the 2016 New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) from Joseph Linzalone of Wolfshead Gallery, who, along with James Hallgate (a Banksy dealer) of Lucius Books, had jointly obtained eight of these specimens directly from Banksy’s manager in 2014.

The note parodies British £10 notes from the mid-2000s, replacing the face of Queen Elizabeth II with that of Diana, Princess of Wales. The elaborate script at the top of the note’s obverse reads, “Banksy of England”, replacing “Bank of England.” The reverse of the note remains largely unchanged except for the all-caps legend “trust no one” in the lower-right corner. Weighing ca. 1.32 g, the note is printed with inks on paper nearly identical to that used on official, UK-issued currency.

(Source: artnet.com)
Uncut sheet of Banksy notes. Source: artnet.com.

Banksy, known for his satirical and subversive street art, created a large quantity of the Princess Diana notes in August 2004, a roll of which was reportedly thrown into the crowd at the Notting Hill Carnival and at the Reading Festival that year. Some of these bills were used by festival-goers as actual currency, prompting Banksy to cease distribution. He re-used the note’s image later in a lithograph commemorating Princess Diana’s death, and also in 2009’s “Million-Pound Briefcase”. Uncut sheets of these notes have fetched as much as £16,000 and £24,000 at auction.

(Source: artofthestate.co.uk)
“Million-Pound Briefcase”. Source: artofthestate.co.uk.

The creation of the banknotes went relatively unreported from 2004 until 2007 at the 10-year anniversary of Princess Diana’s death; Banksy was not sought for any counterfeiting charges, unlike American currency artist J. S. G. Boggs. In Banksy’s film Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy speaks to the fact that after the incidents at the festivals, he realized he had forged around £100,000,000, nearly all of which remain in his possession.

(Source: cointalk.com)
$5 bill by J. S. G. Boggs. Source: cointalk.com.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the note the ANS acquired is its secure provenance. Genuinely authentic Banksy banknotes are exceedingly rare, and are often counterfeited/copied and sold online via auction sites such as ebay. Most sellers claim to have been at either the Nottingham Carnival or Reading Festival in 2004, and the fake notes sold are either photocopies or printed scans.

(Source: ebay.com)
“Reproduction” Di-faced Banksy note. Source: ebay.com

The market for Banksy notes is so great that it has generated detailed online discussions and videos of how to spot fakes. Many of the Princess Diana notes are listed online as auctions at between $200 and $600, nearly all of which are private listings that mask bidders’ identities and allow the seller to drive up the bids using shell ebay accounts. People interested in acquiring an authentic Banksy note should work through a reputable dealer or auction house.

The ANS’s Banksy note (ANS 2016.9.1) is the first specimen of fine-art paper currency at the Society, joining several examples of defaced/modified coins in the cabinet. Visitors to the ANS may schedule a time to see the Banksy note, or other items in the collection.

NOTE: On October 6, 2016, the ANS received the following notice from the Bank of England asking us to remove the images of the front and back of an official 10-pound note, which was in violation of copyright. Here is the text of the message:

From: Gemma Godfrey <gemma.godfrey@bankofengland.co.uk>

Subject: Unauthorised Bank of England Banknote Images

Message Body:

Dear Sir,

It has been brought to our attention that your company is reproducing images of Bank of England banknotes on your website:

http://numismatics.org/pocketchange/tag/ten-pound/

You may not be aware, but it is a criminal offence under section 18 of The Forgery and Counterfeit Act 1981 to reproduce banknotes without prior written permission from the Bank of England.  The Bank of England also owns the copyright in its banknotes.

The Bank may grant permission to reproduce banknotes, providing those reproductions meet the standards set out in our guidelines:

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/Pages/reproducing_banknotes.aspx

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the importance of requesting permission from the Bank, before producing anything containing Bank of England banknote images. 

If you wish to reproduce any part of a Bank of England banknote, please follow the correct procedure and submit a banknote reproduction application form: 

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/Pages/reproappform.aspx

Please remove the images from your website until you have obtained permission.  If you have any questions, or wish to discuss the matter further, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Kind regards

Gemma

Reproductions Officer

Banknote Education Team | Notes Directorate

Bank of England | Threadneedle Street | London | EC2R 8AH

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7601 4028 | Fax: +44 (0) 20 7601 3263

Website: www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes

The Talented Mr. Wood

Wood 07-00002
American Numismatic Society

Howland Wood: long-time ANS curator, Oriental coin authority, Huntington Award winner, and…illustrator? I must admit, I didn’t know about that last one until recently, when I discovered it while looking into the controversy surrounding Victor David Brenner’s initials on the Lincoln Cent. I was reading a Numismatist article on the topic and was surprised to discover that the satirical drawing accompanying it, a depiction of a towering schoolmarm scolding the engraver for his audacity, was by Wood. Wood - VDB

 

The tone was in keeping with the one drawing of his I was aware of, a cartoon skewering the big names of the numismatic world that was found in his personal papers and written about some years ago in ANS Magazine. His other illustrations and devices for the Numismatist were not comical at all. Wood was identified as the “Staff Illustrator” for the magazine in 1909, and his contributions were part of an overall redesign of the magazine. By 1910, fewer and fewer of them appear, and they seem to be gone completely by 1911. As you can see by the slideshow below, Wood was a quite a talented illustrator.

Wood’s work in this area really should not have come as such a surprise. He was at that time working for a photoengraving firm in Boston—though as a salesman—a job he held for over a decade before becoming ANS curator. Several of the illustrations are engravings from photographs. His aptitude for art was not a quality hidden from his colleagues. In his eulogy for Wood, Edward Newell remarked on his “artistic sense [that] rendered him one of the finest and most successful arrangers of coin displays that I have ever been privileged to know.”

David Hill

The Society's Inaugural Ledger

ANS-LedgerOne of the volumes that the curatorial staff often consults is a folio-sized hardbound ledger that records the first half-century of acquisitions and accessions by the American Numismatic Society. The title page of the volume has a hand-written note indicating that it was presented to the organization, “while yet in its infancy,” by William Leggett Bramhall in December 1858. The American Numismatic Society originated out of an informal meeting held on March 15, 1858 at 121 Essex Street in New York City, which was then the home of a young coin enthusiast named Augustus B. Sage (1842-1874).

sage
Augusus B. Sage

A constitution and by-laws were subsequently formulated and then adopted by the fourteen assembled members at the first official meeting of the Society on April 6. The ANS was one of many learned societies that formed in the nineteenth century and its library and collection quickly became an important repository of numismatic knowledge and objects.

Edward Groh
Edward Groh

Over its five hundred pages, the accession ledger details the growth of the collection from the time of the founding of the Society in 1858 through December 1904. As indicated, the ledger was not given to the ANS until December 1858, but it records donations going back to April 1858 when the Society was founded. All of these early entries are in the hand of Edward Groh (1837-1905), a founding member who first became curator in 1859, so we presume he simply transcribed this information from an earlier set of records when he assumed the position. The ledger starts with a listing for a lot of fifty-two coins and tokens donated by Sage.

Page 1-April 1858

The first item accessioned into the ANS collection was an 1825 ‘Classic Head’ half cent.

ANS, 1858.1.1
ANS, 1858.1.1

For those not familiar with how museums and libraries manage their collections, the object number typically begins with the year that a given item was acquired and then a number is assigned for that lot or accession within the year, hence 1858.1 (year.accession) for Sage’s donation, 1858.2 for the subsequent donation by Edward Groh, etc. Finally, each specific item is given a number when it is cataloged, the result of which is a unique number identifying the object.

ANS, 1858.1.14
ANS, 1858.1.14

A ‘Hard Times token’ in Sage’s donation thus has the same numbers to start, but an object number that is particular to it:

1858 (year) | 1 (accession#) |14 (item#) = 1858.1.14

This 1837 token was issued by Henry Crossman, who was a manufacturer of umbrellas with a shop on Chatham Street, which is now known as Park Row.

Beyond the U.S. coins and tokens in Sage’s initial donation to the Society were a mixed bag of foreign coins. Perhaps the most interesting of these was a counterfeit 1832 eight reales minted in Mexico. Through the 1850s by far the most common coins used as hand-to-hand currency in the United States were Spanish silver coins minted in the Americas. Indeed, it was not until the Coinage Act of 1857 repealed earlier acts “authorizing the currency of foreign gold or silver coins”  that Spanish coins began to be pushed out of circulation in the United States. This counterfeit Mexican dollar indirectly reflects the ready availability of Spanish coin and the polyglot monetary system of the antebellum United States that created such problems for ordinary people and opportunities for counterfeiters.

ANS, 1904.10.1
ANS, 1904.10.1

The Society’s inaugural accession ledger is an invaluable resource, one that allows us to reconstruct the history of the collection in considerable detail. The final entry in this first ledger was recorded on January 14, 1904, and it was not a coin, but a decoration. Richard W. L’Hommedieu was a prominent Brooklyn attorney and Republican politician who fought for the Union in the Civil War with the 139th New York Infantry Regiment. He was wounded at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm in 1864 and remained active in a variety of veteran’s organizations, one of which issued this insignia to its members.

The system of using pen and paper to document accessions to the Society’s collections continued all the way into the early 1980s when a computer database replaced the ledgers. And while nearly all of our curatorial work these days is done in digital form, the ledger serves as a reminder of our Victorian roots.

Matthew Wittmann