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The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 36, September 6, 2009, Article 17

DAVID GANZ' LONDON DIARY

David Ganz is traveling with his wife Kathy, and this week they visited London. David forwarded this diary of his visit to the British Museum. -Editor

There's a special exhibition on political, satirical medals, old and modern. Entitled "Medals of Dishonor", it is a major display in room 90 on the 4th level, not too far from the sit down restaurant. More than showing a Karl Goetz medal, they have sketches of portions of the artwork and ephemera. Even Kathy liked it and called it fascinating.

Goetz, of course, is a satirical medallist (1875-1950) who is famous for his Sinking of the Lusitania, a propaganda piece that suggests that Germans had advance knowledge of the sinking on an unarmed passenger ship.

Philip Atwood and Felicity Powell authored a 136 page full color book with the same title as the exhibit (British Museum, 2009, 17). From the early 1600'sonward, medals were used for satiric purposes. The exhibit thoughtfully includes some 2008 medals created as propaganda satire (think Iraq, Saddam Hussein, Tony Blair's involvement as prime minister, and some anti-American themes. The content of the themes may be disturbing, but the composition of the medals is quite real. Most interesting is the use of drawings of the artist, sketches of components of the medals, and background commentary.

We then made our way through Greek and Roman (ancient) galleries where, remarkably, Greco-Roman coinage from the Museum's world renowned cabinet is fully integrated into the display. That means, for example, that of (say) a hundred odd objects in a room, three to a half dozen numismatic items are displayed with appropriate explanations.

To see statues, heads and other objects together with coinage that illustrates the same thing is remarkable. It also shows that a museum can use numismatic items something that many American museums have yet to learn.

We ambled through the museum towards room 68, the history of money exhibit sponsored by Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HKSB), an exclusive and inclusive exhibit that starts with primitive money (cocoa beans, cowrie shells, a small two foot diameter example of Yap stone money), then various examples of coins, tokens, medals and paper money over a 2,700 year span integrated with an engraving reduction machine, a weighing machine and coining presses.

Long live the British Museum! I agree with David's assessment. I greatly enjoyed my visits to the general galleries and the numismatic exhibit. What a marvelous museum. -Editor


Wayne Homren, Editor

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