It is typical to think of museum collections as static and unchanging
things. History happened in the past, and as such it is just a
stepping stone to the future, to progress, right? Unfortunately,
sometimes the modern quest for progress can endanger the history that
made it possible. Such could have been the case in 2013 for a
well-known collection housed in a museum vault in Nebraska.
As most of you know, the Durham Museum in Omaha, Neb., is home to an
amazing rare coin, document and book collection — the Byron Reed
Collection. As you probably also know, that collection was the source
of some anxiety in 2013 as the city of Omaha, owners of the Byron Reed
Collection, discussed the fate of critical funding that would care for
and preserve these 8,000 artifacts. Before the city council debated
whether to award the Durham this much needed support, I reached out to
several numismatists in the Omaha area to support the increased
funding to adequately care for the collection.
Not only did the local community answer that call, but they engaged
the broader numismatic community as well. The response was simply
amazing, and I am happy to report that the city council voted
unanimously to reinstate the museum’s funding at its original level of
$100,000 annually to maintain and care for this incredibly historic collection.
Since the New Year is not only a time for reflection but an
opportunity to make resolutions, here are a few things we at the
Durham have planned, to continue to care for the Byron Reed Collection
in 2014. The rare document collection is slated to be completely
rehoused and have an updated inventory completed by year’s end. Byron
Reed collected a large amount of 16th and 17th century French
monarchical documents, correspondence and land deeds from 18th and
19th century America, and also incredible pieces from the founding and
development of the Omaha area. Once this inventory is complete, it
will allow us to better assist scholars and researchers who are
interested in these previously unstudied artifacts.
Another project that we will undertake is the digitization of almost
700 specimens of paper currency. These will be scanned at 800dpi and
made available for viewing beginning in June through our public
database found on the museum’s website at DurhamMuseum.org. As
you view the collection and see any information that is important to
add about the artifacts, please feel free to leave comments online or
to send us an email. It is always appreciated to hear from experts and
enthusiasts in the field.
We at the Durham Museum cannot say “thank you” enough for all the
numismatic community’s help and support. It is truly an honor to be
able to care for these amazing artifacts and make them available for
appreciation, study, and research. If you would like to help us
continue in our efforts, the Durham’s annual fund is a great way to
help directly impact our mission of preservation and education. As we
move into 2014 and beyond, we are grateful to have local, regional,
and national partners who will help us succeed in making this rich and
varied history available for future generations to enjoy.