Laurence Edwards submitted this report on his recent visit to the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, Scotland. Thank you!
In May of this year (2023) I was in Scotland on a family trip and was fortunate to meet for an hour with the Curator of the Numismatic Collection at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow. As stated on the museum website,
The Hunterian was built as an Enlightenment Museum, reflecting the spirit of a time when Scotland's great thinkers - philosophers, artists, writers, and scientists - sought to understand the natural world and the human mind.
The Hunterian owns one of the most extensive numismatic collections in the world. It was initially formed by Dr. William Hunter (1718-1783), who collected in several areas and donated his collections to establish this museum at the University of Glasgow, his alma mater.
Dr. Hunter was a pioneer in Obstetrics & Gynecology, eventually being appointed Physician Extraordinary to Queen Charlotte, consort of George III. He is recognized for his important research with a bio on the website of the National Institutes of Health in the US:
In his later years Hunter turned his attention to collecting coins and medals, sending agents all over Europe to acquire items (when you have money, you can hire people to build your collection!).
An article by Robert W. Hoge in the American Journal of Numismatics (ANS) on US colonials in the collection includes a history of the collection as a whole:
With his broad knowledge and keen perception, it is by no means surprising that Dr. Hunter's pursuit of learning included an emphasis on coins and medals such that, today, the Hunterian Museum houses one of the world's great numismatic collections. Its cabinet contains some 70,000 [now 80,000 according to the Museum website] coins, medals, tokens, and related objects, about half of which are from Hunter's original collection, said probably to be the finest ever assembled by a private individual. At the time of his death, this collection [approximately 30,000 pieces] was second in importance only to that of the French monarchy. Now, as Scotland's oldest public museum and premier coin cabinet, the Hunterian conserves outstanding holdings of ancient Greek, Roman, Medieval and modern coinages, and also contains a splendid series of medals, ranging from Renaissance to contemporary Scottish issues.…
Directed to be transferred to his old alma mater, Hunters collections were, in 1807, finally shipped from London to Glasgow aboard ship -- with the exception of the numismatic portions, which were considered too precious to risk at sea. These were transported by road escorted by six carefully chosen and armed men sent from Glasgow.
Other collections have been added over the years. One major gift came from the estate of Thomas Coats (1809-1883), a Scottish industrialist. Another gift came from J.R. Lockie, an expert on Scottish communion tokens.
The current Curator of Numismatics at The Hunterian is Jesper Ericsson, who welcomed me to Kelvin Hall on a sunny Wednesday morning (May 17, 2023). I had expressed interest in Scottish and British trade tokens, as well as US colonials, and trays were waiting for me upon arrival.
(The US Colonial representation is small but mighty, including especially fine examples from Massachusetts and Maryland!)
Jesper himself is warm and friendly. Born in Sweden, he grew up in the UK and studied History at the University of Edinburgh. Jesper worked in military museums for a decade before joining The Hunterian in 2015 as a Curatorial Assistant, working under Dr Donal Bateson. His first role was to catalogue William Hunter's extensive collection of British historical medals and curate the accompanying exhibition ‘Moments in History'. After Dr Bateson's retirement in 2019, Jesper took over as Curator of Numismatics.
Hunterian Museum website:
Seventeenth-Century American Coins in the Hunterian Museum
Author(s): Robert W. Hoge
Source: American Journal of Numismatics (1989-) , 2011, Vol. 23 (2011), pp. 229-256 Published by: American Numismatic Society
Numismatic Collections in Scotland from HISTOIRE DES COLLECTIONS NUMISMATIQUES ET DES INSTITUTIONS VOUÉES À LA NUMISMATIQUE
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