From London, American Numismatic Society Executive Director Ute Wartenberg Kagan submitted this report on the official reopening of the Heberden Coin Room.
On Thursday this week, I attended the opening of the Heberden Coin Room at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. There have been several openings for the museum, but this was an event for the numismatists, and there were a very large number of us present. Many had not seen the new Money Gallery, which is a new addition to the museum. Previously there was only a tiny display area outside the study room, where one used to view the coins.
Apart from the new gallery, coins are integrated in many of the galleries within their cultural or economic context. The old displays were set up to aid teaching, with different cultures, types of objects, or periods were grouped together. The new concept, under which the display is organized, is called “Crossing Cultures, Crossing Times”, which sets different objects from very different cultures alongside each other.
I spent a lot of time in the Ashmolean when I was a student in Oxford, but most undergraduates never set foot in it. As there are such amazing treasures in all these old Oxford museums, it always seemed a great shame that few saw them. The other museums were even more old-fashioned, which added for me to their attraction. In the Pitts River Museum, which holds truly amazing anthropological collections, the old cases were so dark that visitors were given flash lights to view shrunken heads, baskets, photographs or whatever one would suddenly recognize in a case.
The Ashmolean Museum was a little less dramatic to visit, but these museums were a strong influence on me to pursue museum work and not academic teaching. Now, the original idea of the Ashmolean Museum, which was Britain’s - and probably the world’s - first public museum, has been
revived: the aim is to bring everyone into a modern museum, and it seems to be working. There are visitors everywhere, and many of them children.
The new study room for the Heberden Coin Room is a large room, adjacent to the new coin vault. Most importantly, it has large windows, which allows researchers and students to look at objects in daylight. If there is one, major problem, it is the lack of a reference library.
The amazing numismatic library, which used to be part of the Heberden Coin Room, was moved into the Sackler Library as part of the research library for archaeology, art history, and classics. Luckily, the Keeper, Christopher Howgego, has been able to begin rebuilding the reference library. Thanks to some generous donors, there are some of the standard works on the mostly empty shelves.
The opening itself was a great event for me to connect with old friends from Britain and abroad, who had travelled to Oxford to attend the event.
The reception and a small dinner were very generously sponsored by Classical Numismatic Group, which was represented by their principals Victor England and Eric McFadden as well as their London-based staff.
The website of the Ashmolean Museum is at http://www.ashmolean.org/, and you can help the museum by voting for it at the website of the Art fund.
The winning museum will win £100,000 (around $160,000)
To visit the Ashmolean web site, see:
To vote, go to:
The Art Fund Prize
THE BOOK BAZARRE
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