My year with coins

This guest blog post comes from Carly Cooper, one of twenty MGS Interns who have recently completed their year long placement in a Scottish Museum:

In October 2011 I started a year long internship in the McManus Galleries Dundee focusing on the Museum’s numismatic collection.  Coins, I will admit, had not featured high on my to-do list prior to my role and I have frequently met with scoffing and glazed eyes over this past year.  I have been guilty of it myself – coins and medals do not instantly jump out at you, they aren’t showy.  But, on much closer inspection they offer a wealth of interest and fascinating features – and that is what grabbed me.

I had to pick a project to work on over the year and I knew I wanted one where I would learn as much as possible.  I had the opportunity to focus on a specific collection for a year – something I doubt I will ever get a chance to do again so I wanted to make it worthwhile.  A large donation of coins and tokens had been given to the Museum just before I started and it was a perfect project to introduce me to the subject of numismatics and to the various procedures in a museum.  From researching the collection in order to identify it to accessioning it, from photography to creating records for the Museum’s database, from liaising with experts to making the collection available to the public through talks and events.  Events have included the Festival of Museums where I created a handling session with a selection of the Museum’s ancient Chinese coins, and also the History Day as part of the BBC’s Great British Story where I used the Dundee steel plates and banknotes to highlight the history of the Dundee banks.

The project has kept me busy throughout the year as have the number and range of public enquiries that have come my way.  Thanks to the team at the McManus I have also had a chance to try my hand at some preventative conservation (by giving the Museum a good Spring Clean), also decanting items for store, organising loans and helping with the Museum’s first mobile app.  Being part of the team has broadened my knowledge of the sector through regular team meetings and from accompanying colleagues to the Tayside Museums Forum.  The Forum provided such an insight into the range of museums and some of the difficulties (and benefits!) each of them face.

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My year as a numismatic intern has been fantastic.  Looking forward I hope to continue working with collections and learning the ins and outs of other museums.  Whether numismatics will feature in future roles I do not know – I would love to keep my hand in the subject as it really is fascinating and a year studying it does not do it justice.  My favourite coin of the year? Has to be a Henry VIII halfgroat.  On its reverse are the stamped letters TC for Thomas Cranmer – the man who sanctioned Henry’s divorce to Catherine of Aragon, and it’s currently in my hand.  Now that’s pretty special.

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