The April 2012 issue of .Money & medals (the Newsletter for Numismatics in Britain) has a nice interview with Dr Andrew Burnett of the British Museum. Here's an excerpt.
Dr Andrew Burnett, Deputy Director of the British Museum, was awarded a CBE in the Queen's New Years Honours list. In an interview with the Newsletter Andrew talks about how he came into numismatics, his work at the British Museum and the future of the subject.
Where did your interest in coinage stem from?
My interest in coins began in what nowadays would be called a gap year. For a few months I spent time in Italy, as a general slave at the British School at Rome. While I was there I met Richard Reece who was en route to Malta to work with the British Council to help sort out their coin collection. He kindly asked me if I would like to go along. I did and that's how I became interested. As I later learnt, this was a characteristic bit of Richard's generosity - he got so many people interested in the subject, and I have always admired him as my inspiration. Once you have been bitten by the coin bug, though, I think there is little hope of escape.
How did you come to work at the British Museum?
After I had graduated I was uncertain, like so many people, about the next move. While I was dithering in this way, I saw a job advertised at the BM, and applied for it. Rather to my
surprise I was offered it, and here I am still!
How has the museum changed since you've been there?
An impossible question! The main changes are that the visiting public has grown enormously, both in person and more recently, with the digital revolution, electronically. These changes have transformed and are transforming what we do. Government funding has also declined greatly, but I am impressed how the institution has risen to the challenge. I would also stress what hasn't changed - a commitment to academic excellence and to sharing the collection and our knowledge as widely as we can.
On being awarded the CBE
Well, it's all a bit embarrassing to get it, as it really depends on all the efforts of many other people, both at and outside the museum. I see it as a nice recognition of what the museum is achieving and the importance of numismatics to that achievement. It is a real surprise when you get a letter asking if you will accept an honour - you get it about a month before the announcement.
I think everyone goes through a bit of agonising over whether or not to accept, but in the end most of us do it for our mothers, I think! Then you get summoned to the Palace and there is an Investiture, sometimes with the Queen but in my case the Prince of Wales. You are called forward; he puts the badge with its ribbon over your neck, and then says a few words (we talked about collecting and research); then you take a couple of steps backwards, bow again, and leave his presence. It's quite nerve wracking - reminded me of giving my first talk at the RNS...
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