Insights

Smithsonian moving ahead with Gallery of Numismatic History tripling current space for NNC

New National Numismatic Collection exhibit set to open in July 2015
By Paul Gilkes - Coin World Staff
Published : 04/17/14
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Having met a project budget of $1.5 million for a new Gallery of Numismatic History, officials at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History are seeking additional funding to enhance future displays featuring the National Numismatic Collection.

“Should additional funding become available, other features could include a discovery cart with collections for hands-on learning and a custom designed vault door for the gallery entrance,” according to museum officials. “Exhibition elements will be updated to keep the experience fresh and exciting.”

Museum officials are also working toward incorporating a display case to exhibit new acquisitions and pieces placed on long-term loan from collectors and other sources.

The 1,000-square-foot gallery is part of the museum’s overall West Wing renovations. The gallery space, triple what is currently devoted to numismatics, is scheduled to be ready for the public in July 2015.

Museum officials project that the gallery will be able to accommodate 1 million visitors annually. Access to the exhibit area will be closest from the Constitution Avenue entrance.

The National Numismatic Collection, containing nearly 1.6 million objects, is the largest numismatic collection in North America and one of the largest in the world. Coins, medals and decorations in the collection total more than 450,000; paper money accounts for another 1.1 million pieces. As a whole, the collection highlights the entire numismatic history of the world.

Discovery drawers

The Gallery of Numismatic History’s six display cases, covered with Plexiglas, are designed to exhibit small objects.

Each case will be accompanied by pull-out discovery drawers positioned below, to expand the number of objects displayed, according to museum officials. The contents of the display drawers will be rotated in and out regularly.

The objects will be secured so that they can be viewed, but not individually handled or removed, by the public.

The six display cases are designed to permit double-sided viewing of coins, medals, tokens, paper money and other numismatic objects. Each display case will be dedicated to specific themes tracing the evolution of money, its development and uses.

Representations of Liberty, symbols of national strength and related motifs will be among the topics explored. Items to be represented will include primitive money, such as Yap stones; specie; and technological advances, incorporating such items as credit cards and virtual currency.

Digitized BEP archives

The Smithsonian has also undertaken an extensive archival project to digitize thousands of pages of proofs from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing into high-resolution images.

“Since 1863, certified proofs allowed the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to examine every intaglio printing plate before it was placed in production,” according to museum officials. These include certified proofs of paper currency, bonds, revenue stamps, checks, and more.

The newly digitized images are cataloged and loaded online, with volunteers contributing descriptions for each digitized image. The Smithsonian Digital Volunteer Transcription Service can be accessed online at https://transcription.si.edu.

Visit the NNC at americanhistory.si.edu/numismatics/.

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