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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 52, December 23, 2007, Article 12

ON MUSEUM DISPLAYS, COLLECTOR DONATIONS AND THEFT

Alan V. Weinberg writes: "The concept of the New Zealand 
Museum's (and other institutions according to the e-Sylum 
Editor) withdrawal of their medals from public display and 
locking them up for just scholars with advanced notice to 
see is so repugnant to me. In their place, the museum says 
they will exhibit replicas of the medals!

Typical, inconsiderate institutional reaction which flies 
in the face of museum contributors who clearly wished their 
rarities be exhibited to the public and perhaps generate new 
collectors and an interest in history . Instead of creating 
more advanced imaginative security measures, the museum 
curators deprive the public of seeing the original medals. 
All because another museum was burglarized, most likely an 
inside job. Who would want to see an exhibit of replicas? 
No replicas would start a "fire in the belly" of a would-be 
collector. 

This gut reaction by museums, who then get their collections 
"in storage" pilfered away without notice, is precisely why 
so many collectors decide to auction their life's work and 
create a memorable catalogue and sale . Their names live on 
for a hundred years or more among collectors (much as we 
think of Chas Bushnell, Jos. J. Mickley or John J. Ford, 
Jr. in awe) instead of being forgotten by the numismatic 
community not long after they pass away. Give me a good 
cataloguer and a memorable auction anytime! When I show my 
coins or medals, I always mention the prior owner provenance 
with pride. 

[Itís understandable why many collectors are dead set against 
leaving collections to museums. My early experience with 
the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh formed my opinion for life. 
After seeing the heartbreak caused when the museum decided 
to sell previously donated items, I vowed never to become 
a donor. I've already sold the bulk of my first collection, 
and I was happy to see the pieces go into the hands of fellow 
collectors who will value and enjoy them. And sure, I was 
proud to have my name on my consignments and hope some of 
those buyers will keep the pedigree information updated. 
I set aside copies of the catalogues for each of my kids so 
they'll realize someday that the money that bought their 
childhood home really didn't grow on trees.

But I've softened my stance a bit. I would consider donating 
selected items to a museum where I felt the material would 
augment the collection and that the donation would be 
appreciated and cared for. For example, I've donated archival 
material to the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, and have 
a few more boxes planned to go - and these include some 
Pittsburgh numismatic items (paper money, checks, stock 
certificates) etc. The planned donation also includes an 
archive of ephemera related to local numismatists and clubs. 
The history center should make a fine steward of this material.

One should be careful not to paint all museums with the same 
brush. Visits to the top numismatic museums show that they 
clearly can and do treat numismatic material with far more 
respect than museums which don't have numismatics as a focus. 
-Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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