November 1, 2019
The American Numismatic Society announced this week that its Executive Director, Dr. Ute Wartenberg, has decided to step down from her position to return to full-time research. She will remain at the Society as a full-time Research Curator while also serving as Curator of the Amastris Collection, a private collection of Greek coins. Dr. Gilles Bransbourg, Deputy Director of the Society since January 2018, has worked closely with Dr. Wartenberg over the last year to facilitate the transition, and he will assume the position of Executive Director beginning November 1, 2019.
Prior to joining the ANS, Dr. Wartenberg had already built an academic reputation, with a focus on ancient Greek coinage. After her education in Saarbrücken, Germany, she went to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and was awarded a doctorate in papyrology. Subsequently, from 1991 to 1998, she worked as Curator of Greek Coins in the British Museum in London. Her publications include over 50 books and articles on papyrology and numismatics, including Coins Hoards VIII and Coin Hoards IX (with Andrew Meadows), After Marathon: War, Society and Money in Fifth-Century Greece; and The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Vol. LXIV. Among her many honors and academic awards are the Ehrenpreis der Gesellschaft für Internationale Geschichte and being elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
Dr. Wartenberg assumed her leadership role in 1999, during a period of severe financial crisis for the Society. At the time, the ANS—which was founded in 1858—had purchased a building at 140 William Street, near Wall Street, where it planned to move from its nearly century-long residence in northern Manhattan. But it had to undertake a huge renovation project of its new headquarters, and simultaneously was forced to deal with an annual deficit of $1 million and the inescapable necessity of cutting its staff in half. “This was the hardest task I faced in my two decades at the Society, and it undoubtedly had a huge impact in my subsequent commitment to the staff going forward.” Dr. Wartenberg said. Ultimately, the Society’s Trustees sold the building, which helped put the ANS on a positive financial footing going forward, and relocated to its present home on Varick St.
During her tenure, Dr. Wartenberg carried out a rigorous program of modernization, which was based on the concept of maximizing the limited resources of the ANS to focus on a few discrete goals. “It would be an understatement to say that these early years as director were straightforward,” Dr. Wartenberg said, “but I benefited enormously from the advice and friendship I received from ANS Presidents Donald Partrick, Roger Siboni and more recently Sydney Martin.”
Among many efforts to secure the Society’s future, Dr. Wartenberg engaged in extensive fundraising from members outside New York City. She also developed partnerships with other institutions, such as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which provided its magnificent ground-floor space for a museum. In 2001, Alan Greenspan opened “Drachmas, Doubloons and Dollars. A History of Money.” The exhibit highlighted many of the ANS’s treasures and was viewed by more than 400,000 visitors over a decade.
Over the past 20 years, Dr. Wartenberg steadily built the ANS into an institution of both national and international renown, and she leaves her post with the Society in a far more secure position. Today, the endowment is at approximately $43 million. Since 1999, over 45,000 coins and other objects have been donated to the Society’s collection, including the Julius Korein Collection of Gobrecht Dollars, the Abe and Marian Scheuer Sofaer collections, and the Richard B. Witschonke Collection of provincial coins of the Roman Republic. In 2018 Dr. Wartenberg was able to purchase for the Society in a bankruptcy court the archives of dies, medals, and die-shells of the Medallic Art Company and thus save this invaluable treasure for the nation and for future scholarship.
One of her most impactful legacies will no doubt be the strong digital presence of the ANS in the numismatic world. Thanks to the visionary efforts of former ANS President Harry W. Bass, Jr., the Society’s internet identity and its collection databases were already in place when Dr. Wartenberg took over in 1999, but she championed this program by adding staff and funding, and in recent years has directed an ever increasing share of the Society’s resources to online activities. Now, more than 500,000 coins, some 80,000 books and pamphlets, and 450 archival collection records are available online. The Society also supports collaborative efforts with other major coin cabinets in order to create Linked Open Data (LOD) for use in databases of numismatic material, which were largely funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additionally, the Society has revived its numismatic publishing department, which is again one of the significant publishers of serious numismatic research in print and digital formats.
Dr. Wartenberg served on many committees during her term, including as first Chairperson of the Citizen Coinage Advisory Committee, and she continues her roles as a member of the International Numismatic Council and of the Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation, Inc. She was also recently appointed Chairperson of the International Committee for Money and Banking Museums.
“Through Dr. Wartenberg’s leadership, the ANS has been transformed from a financially precarious institute to a healthy one with an international reputation as among the finest numismatic institutions of its kind in the world,” notes Kenneth L. Edlow, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “It boasts a magnificent and world-renowned collection, significant scholarship and research, a thriving publications department, and expanding digital presence, all supported by a healthy endowment. Dr. Wartenberg’s own rigorous scholarship and her incredible charisma have transformed the organization into the flourishing institution that we are proud to be a part of today.” “It’s been a real joy to work alongside Dr. Wartenberg for nearly two decades,” said Chief Curator Dr. Peter van Alfen, “and to see the ANS’s astounding transformation take place under her watch. Not least among her achievements has been building a team that works very hard but has wonderful esprit de corps, certainly a reflection of her diligence and charm.”
The American Numismatic Society, organized in 1858 and incorporated in 1865 in New York State, operates as a research museum under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is recognized as a publicly supported organization under section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) as confirmed on November 1, 1970.