The E-Sylum:  Volume 5, Number 44, November 3, 2002, Article 7


  Continuing the dialogue on "coin shooters", archeologists,
  collectors and museum curators, Larry Lee of the
  American Numismatic Association writes:

  "I can agree with several of David Fanning's points regarding
  coin finds in archeological context, including that it "is a
  touchy subject," and that it is "a bit off-topic for the E-Sylum."
  But if I could just revisit the discussion, I might be able to
  clarify a few of my previous points.

  Mr. Fanning said "the vast majority of museum personnel
  across the country know little to nothing about numismatic
  objects."  While I personally do not know the vast majority
  of museum personnel across the country, I do know Michael
  Bates, Dick Doty, Bob Evans, Gene Hessler, Bob Hoge,
  Louis Jordan, Doug Mudd, Brooks Levy, Alan Stahl, and
  Ute Wartenberg, among others, who do know something
  about coins and museums.

  I also know a good number of other curators who know
  enough about numismatics to know they don't know much
  about numismatics.  These people are more than willing to
  call in outside help if needed.  What we as numismatists must
  do is make sure the museum community knows of the
  numismatic expertise that is available to them, both locally
  and nationally.

  The ANA is trying to address that concern by offering a
  class during Summer Seminar called "Numismatics for the
  Museum Professional."  The class is advertised in museum
  journals and several scholarships are offered virtually on a
  first-come first-served basis to museum studies students
  and curators.  Last year's class was a very well received
  and included curators from the National Park Service,
  Cornell University and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

  Coin clubs and individual collectors can also get involved
  if they feel there is a problem by offering their help in
  identifying and attributing the numismatic objects in the
  collection at their local museums. Most museums would
  welcome qualified volunteers.

  In regard to Mr. Fanning's statement that "the odds are
  good that the coins will end up unlabeled, unattributed
  and stuck in storage somewhere," I would opine that
  most objects in museums, including coins, are in fact very
  well organized, even if they may not be numismatically
  attributed. And rather than castigate museums for having
  objects "stuck in storage," one must realize that sticking
  things in storage is exactly what museums do: i.e.,
  preserve objects forever, so that future generations can
  have access to them as well as this generation.  It is not
  a crime for a museum to store a coin, it is part of its basic
  job description.

  Nor is it a museum curator's job "to rush out to the scene
  if someone calls reporting a coin or two they found in the
  woods." Curators take care of objects after they are
  given to a museum. The proper person to report any
  archeological find to is the state archeologist, whose office
  is usually located in the state capital. They will indeed "rush
  out to the scene" if a site warrants rapid excavation: it is
  called salvage archeology and they do it all the time with
  sites uncovered in road and building construction.

  Like Mr. Fanning, I too do not support the idea that "once
  it's in the ground, it should stay there.?  There are many coin
  finds (like the 1971-D cent I found this week in the parking
  lot) that add nothing to the corpus of numismatics and they
  can very well go unreported.  The trick is to know which
  coins add to our knowledge and which clutter up the field
  with useless data. Some seem to believe it is only the
  dedicated coin collector who can make such a determination.
  I think there are a great number of people who have the
  knowledge to make such a decision, and some of them are
  even curators.

  In regard to the Native American Graves Protection and
  Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), I would like to make clear
  I am not defending the law, I am just reporting what it states
  as I understand it.  The NAGPRA act itself is very
  controversial and even unpopular, not just among archeologists
  and curators, but with many legal scholars who question some
  of the basic property right assumptions of this congressional
  act.  The issue is not whether the object (peace medal,
  Northwest beaver token, etc.) was in a burial or not, it is
  whether the Native American community at large, (and not
  just the local affiliated tribe), consider the object to be of
  significant cultural patrimony to their history.  If they do, the
  object must be returned to them, regardless of whether it was
  found by a pot hunter, excavated by an archeologist, or exists
  in a museum as an ethnographic specimen."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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