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V14 2011 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 9, February 27, 2011, Article 16

THE BRITISH MUSEUM CELEBRATES ITS 150TH BIRTHDAY

British Museum Here's an original article from Coins Weekly on the anniversary of the British Museum and its numismatic collection. It's nicely done and well illustrated - please check out the original in its entirety. Here are some excerpts. The image of the museum is from an earlier E-Sylum piece - the others are from the Coins Weekly article. -Editor



In 1861 the Department of Coins and Medals was separated from the Antiquity Department. Since then the BM coin cabinet is ranked among the biggest and most active numismatic research centers. On Friday, February 18, 2011 its 150th birthday was celebrated. A colloquium marked this special occasion.

British Museum hands-on "Museums and the future of UK numismatics" that was the title of this event. Lecturers mostly members of the British Museum staff described the position of the BM coin cabinet in the past and the present and outlined some ideas for the future.

It goes without saying that the BM owned a nice coin collection of about 20.000 pieces, when it was founded in 1753. As "metal manuscripts" these numismatic objects formed part of the Department of Manuscripts, before they were affiliated to the Department of Antiquities in 1803. When the Department of Coins and Medals was founded in 1861, the museum owned already more than 157.000 numismatic pieces.

The real increase of the collection began at the end of the 19th century. Great Britain was the leading colonial power of that period. English officials formed coin collections all over the world and donated them to the British Museum. Today we only can estimate the inventory: About one million coins, medals, banknotes and other numismatic objects are fostered and interpreted in the Department of Coins and Medals.

Money in Africa Today, 17 numismatists are in charge of the coin collection. With them the British Museum owns the world wide most numerous staff of numismatists. They can be proud of their predecessors who have published epochal books like the Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, the Catalogue of the Oriental Coins or the RIC, the Roman Imperial Coinage.

Then, publishing was the most important task of a curator. Today it is just one among many other duties.

To read the complete article, see: The British Museum celebrates its 150th birthday (www.coinsweekly.com/en/News/4?&id=460)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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