Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Venerable French Numismatic Museums to Close: What's Next?

Coin World (March 16, 2010) reports that both the museum of Monnaie de Paris (founded in 1833) and the Cabinet des Medailles of the Biblotheque Nationale de France (with collections dating back to at least the 17th c.) will close this year. Smaller displays may replace them, but even that is unclear. There is an international petition to try to save the Cabinet des Medallies that has been posted on-line. See http://jesigne.fr/sauvonsleplusancienmuseedefrance But it all may be too little too late.

In any event, this continues an unfortunate trend. In the United States, the Smithsonian traded its wonderful (if a bit ragged around the edges) coin display for a few panels of mostly American coins. See http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2009/07/disappointing-smithsonian-numismatic.html

This leaves the ANA and the ANS-- which are both funded almost exclusively by collectors and coin dealers-- with two of the last remaining decent coin displays in the US (though the ANS mostly uses borrowed space at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York). See http://www.money.org/Content/NavigationMenu/ExploretheWorldofMoney/MoneyMuseum/default.htm and

I have a real question how long this can continue, particularly if the AIA gets its way and greatly limits the ability of collectors to trade in ancient Italian coins from abroad. Without a vibrant numismatic trade in ancient coins, funding will dry up for the ANS in particular. Of course, the prospective money drain won't just impact coin displays. It will also decimate the academic research archaeologists also purport to support.

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