Insights

Grant helps in implementation of Roman Imperial catalog by ANS, New York University

Online database catalogs coins from major museums worldwide
By , Coin World
Published : 04/11/14
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In collaboration with New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, the American Numismatic Society has released a new version of Online Coins of the Roman Empire with the help of a $300,000 grant.

The ANS and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World received the grant from the Division of Preservation and Access of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant, made as part of the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program, will provide for the full implementation of the Online Coins of the Roman Empire (OCRE) project, according to an April 4 press release.

OCRE is co-directed by Dr. Andrew Meadows of the ANS and Professor Roger Bagnall of ISAW and managed by Dr. Gilles Bransbourg.

According to the ANS, the OCRE project is creating a revolutionary new tool designed to help in the identification, cataloging, and research of the rich and varied coinage of the Roman Empire. It aims to provide a comprehensive online resource encompassing every known Roman Imperial coin type.

OCRE, at www.numismatics.org/ocre/, allows users to search in 10 languages other than English. This is made possible by multilingual labels provided by nomisma.org’s identifier.

“This was a clear prerequisite in order to allow OCRE to become a truly international platform,” says ANS Deputy Director Meadows.

Romanian, Bulgarian, Swedish, Dutch, Spanish, German, French, Russian, Greek and Italian are among the languages offered by OCRE.

In a further development, OCRE can now link to another ANS developed resource, Coin Hoards of the Roman Republic (numismatics.org/chrr/). This enables OCRE to draw on findspot data for some early imperial coin types, and map their distribution.

Findspot data represents the three-dimensional location of an artifact or feature within an archaeological site.

The end result of the OCRE project will be, according to the ANS:

A database of 50,000 coin types to serve as a resource that collectors can use to identify their coins, estimate their rarity, and discover unknown varieties of coins.

An online reference tool for researchers to help in new research on this important series.

Easy to use, downloadable catalog entries for the coinage of every Roman emperor from Augustus in 31 B.C., until the death of Zeno in A.D. 491.

OCRE’s first version drew only on the collection of the ANS, but the database now has multiple contributing collections, with the addition of the Roman Imperial collection of the Münzkabinett of the State Museum of Berlin and the University of Virginia Art Museum.

Between these three collections, OCRE is now able to illustrate 50 percent of the imperial coin types that it contains. To date, more than 15,000 coin types are described.

“Such a joint collaborative effort between major public and private collections should lead to a comprehensive catalogue that will eventually incorporate and display almost all recorded Roman Imperial coin-types,” explains ANS executive director, Ute Wartenberg Kagan. More collections will follow soon, bringing OCRE closer to that aim, she said.

She added, “Getting such a grant is prestigious as it is strictly peer-reviewed and therefore meets very high standards of scholarship. Within our fundraising efforts, which we are trying to strengthen, it is wonderful to have some ‘official recognition’ as well as money for our efforts.”

“The time range covered by OCRE is now incorporating 250 years of monetary and numismatic history, from 30 B.C. until A.D. 211, effectively covering the entire High Empire,” according to Bransbourg, OCRE project manager, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World research associate and ANS Romanist. “We should very soon include the entire Severan dynasty and then the later 3rd century.”

As Ethan Gruber, ANS database developer, notes, “The new version of OCRE is a significant step forward over the previous in that the architecture for linking coin types to physical coins and hoard data has been completely rewritten. ...” 

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