Numismatic and History Discussions > History and Archeology

Forget MOU's, Museums and the curse of knowledge

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A few of you might know I have been pursuing the NEW STYLE coins of the Poggio Pincenze hoard in the Chieti Museum archaeologica  . I have contacted museum directors, and the Italian embassy for help when my pursuits hit Stoney ground..

Today marks a 2 year anniversary of failure. This essentially unpublished hoard in detail remains in the hands of the ignorant, bureaucratic place holders of which museums abound. It is the power and privilege which they seek not the items. This is actually common, look at the average coin collector. They love the actual collecting and the possession, maybe a little light bragging, mine is better, larger, cleaner, MS 65 than yours type of thing. Knowledge printed on a label on a plastic tomb is good enough, real research is not wanted.

To cap it all the unending nonsense of provenance is the latest pointless pursuit to take the place of genuine numismatical knowledge, where on coin sites it seems to be the be all and end all of bragging rights! So that is why the lack of interest of museums in their items should come as no surprise, it's the bragging rights curators and directors are interested in   not knowledge that is not sexy

The secret coins in question. This hoard discovered 70 years ago and rescued from plunderers is now in the hands of ignorant and can't care less professionals . Only mentioned briefly by numismatists I have tried to fathom the NEW STYLES only to be rejected. What is the point?

The interesting thing about the photo is that the coins appear to be in a sort of chronological order so somebody put some effort into it but no more. I wonder where they placed 2 Ears of Corn? I would dearly love to know that is my main pursuit, but hey ho , experts eh!

Long live private collecting!

What you have experienced is the economic and commercial reality of the situation in which museums find themselves. They are no longer purely institutions focussed on learning and research, repositories of knowledge if you like. Increasingly they are viewed as little more than store houses of material articles and specimens, and places of public entertainment, the cost of which has to be defrayed in the face of an increasing absence of government largesse.

As a result, museums worldwide are being run on what is largely a user pays model. Curatorial staff are engaged increasingly in a multitude of activities that are essentially focussed on generating revenue. In this respect, broad-based public (not individual) engagement is a key priority in the cost recovery process. Result: addressing the inquiries of an independent researcher (a non-revenue generating activity) is well down the priority list. The collections are open to study visitation by independent researchers, but beyond this, with few exceptions the assistance role ends there. 

The more enlightened and well-endowed museums are making their numismatic collections online, which is a costly and labour-intensive endeavour that greatly benefits the independent researcher, so I think it is a little churlish to criticise these institutions for their unresponsiveness to an individual inquiry. In many cases, you may find they don’t even have suitably qualified numismatic staff to understand, let alone address your inquiry, as cost pressures drive staff reductions in fields such as numismatics that fall outside of topical and popular fields of research and public interest.

Sadly, this this is the commercial reality of museums in the modern era. The days of individual scholarly knowledge driven correspondence exchange with such institutions are well and truly in the past. The wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth on this point will not bring it back.

Best to plan a holiday, and visit the museum in question to access the collection.

P.S.  Many, if not most museums and their curatorial staff are also engaged as a key component in the administration of cultural heritage laws (eg the PAS in Britain), MOU's and the like as a primary delivery for their Government funding. So don't forget the role of MOU's in this!

Dominic T:
I remember you wrote about your attempt to contact the museum administrators in 2018…
Just by curiosity, did someone ever replied to you ?


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