This must be a short post today, as I’m trying to write something substantial about the UK’s higher education situation that will then appear here, but happily there is something short I did want to share with you all. Those who’ve been following this blog and my career for a while will remember that I have done some time in museums’ coin collections, and mounted an exhibition or two. As a result, I’ve come up against – and even published on – the two perennial problems of the numismatic curator, to wit, firstly our most common piece of feedback, “they’re very small, aren’t they?” and secondly, the fact that coins have two faces and in a normal exhibition case you can only show one. My usual solution has been photographic enlargements that include the face that’s downwards in the case, but there are certainly more effective – and expensive – ways to do it.1 There is also the problem that you can’t usually display very much of a coin collection without saturating everyone’s interest well beyond any normal point. And, as a result of the British Academy Writing Workshops I mentioned three posts back taking me to Ankara, I saw a new solution to all these problems (new at least to me) and was quite impressed.
On the second of those trips, having run through some of the major tourist destinations already, we found ourselves outside an establishment called the Erimtan Arkeoloji ve Sanat Müzesi (Erimtan Archaeology and Arts Museum) and went in to have a look. That link above will take you to the photos of someone else who did that thing, for I took none apparently, but they’re worth a look not just for the space but because of the coin displays. The collection is actually stored, at least in part, in the museum hall itself, in vertical glass panels mounted on runners. If you pull one out at a time, you can see the coins from both sides, from pretty much as close as you could get handling them. The lighting is also such that you can actually see details without the other objects in the display hall suffering from exposure. It’s brilliant, and must have cost a bomb. But then, almost everything that’s in here turns out to have been one person’s collection, and the buildings themselves are leased from the Turkish government, so I’m guessing that money is a problem they (at least then) faced less than some other museums do. Still: if I ever find myself advising a museum with a numismatic collection they want to store and display in a safe and useful fashion for the foreseeable future, I’ll have this in mind!
1. Jonathan Jarrett, Coins in Collections: care and use. A Guide to Best Practice by the COINS Project (Cambridge 2009), pp. 19-24.