Last week Ron Guth noted with dismay that the Frank Stewart collection of items related to the first U.S. Mint were no longer on display at Congress Hall in Philadelphia. He and others have discussed the quandary collectors have when deciding to donate items to museums. -Editor
Joel J. Orosz writes:
I feel the same ambivalence that Ron Guth feels. As a long-time numismatist, I want to see a museum's coin collection on exhibit, not in the storage room. But as a former curator, I know that museums own much more than they can exhibit, and have to rotate their exhibitions to keep them up-to-date. Ron is right that Frank Stewart was promised that his Old Mint Collection of coins and artifacts from the first Philadelphia Mint (1792-1832) would be permanently displayed at Congress Hall (now part of the Independence Hall National Historical Site of the National Park Service), and that this promise has been forgotten or ignored.
This reminds me of Phillipe de Montebello promising a major donor that the donor's name would be attached to a gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art "in perpetuity." The donor shrewdly asked, "How long does 'perpetuity' last?" Montebello candidly replied "Fifty years." In answer to the Editor's question, Len Augsburger and I have recently done research at the Independence Hall Library, and Len has done research at Rowan University's Stewart Collection, all for our forthcoming Whitman book, Pictures of the First United States Mint: The Numismatic Legacy of Frank H. Stewart.
Both repositories have been very helpful, and have allowed us to directly examine artifacts from Stewart's collections. Neither repository has numismatics as a primary competence, but the curators at both have been interested in learning from us, and certainly care deeply about the important numismatic artifacts under their care.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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