Kevin Goldberg

Old World, New Ideas

Kevin Goldberg

Kevin D. Goldberg began collecting European coins as a Middle School student in suburban Philadelphia. Three decades later, he still collects European coins, but now in suburban Atlanta, where he teaches in the Department of History & Philosophy at Kennesaw State University. He earned his Ph.D. in European History from the University of California, Los Angeles, and was a postdoctoral fellow in the International Humanities at Brown University, 2011-2013. Kevin has been planning on expanding his collection beyond Europe for the past decade, but is only now getting around to it.   

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The Numismatic Science

One of the great pleasures of historical research is the occasional interaction, professionally, with numismatic subjects. I recently received an email on a Humanities listserv about an upcoming conference in Vienna celebrating Joseph Eckhel (1737-1798), a pioneer in modern numismatic studies.The event, set to take place May 27-30 at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), is convened by numismatic historian Bernhard Woytek, and will feature almost two dozen numismatic and historical researchers from Europe and the United States, all following the path blazed by Eckhel over two centuries ago.

Eckhel’s numismatic resume appears almost fantastical.  A crucial moment in the life of Eckhel, who was born and raised in Lower Austria, was a study visit  to Italy in 1772/1773. In Florence, he found employment arranging the impressive collection began by Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici(1617-1675).  Following the suppression of the Jesuit Order in 1773 and Eckhel’s return to Austria, Empress Maria Theresa appointed Eckhel as keeper of the Imperial Coin Cabinet and professor of antiquities and numismatics at the University of Vienna, a post that he would hold for more than two decades. It was in this position that Eckhel composed his magnum opus, the eight-volume Doctrina numorum veterum, a magisterial, systematic account of ancient coinage.

The conference in Vienna will examine Eckhel from multiple angles, but one theme which promises to emerge is Eckhel’s connection to the Enlightenment, a European intellectual movement that privileged analysis and reason over the inertia of static traditions. Eckhel’s research was meticulous and thoughtful, and his goals included the rational systemization of coins and their history, a quality that has drawn comparisons with botanist Carl von Linné (Linnaeus), creator of binomial nomenclature for the natural world. Other themes will include ancient glyptics, coin curation, and numismatic teaching.

An often-overlooked aspect of our hobby is that its reach extends in many directions. While this conference reveals a historical link and a connection to Humanistic research, I have no doubt that similarly exciting numismatic discussions take place in the fields of metallurgy, economics & finance, theology, art & design, and countless other areas. I’m delighted to share these occasions when they take place in my neck of the occupational woods.

You can learn more about the conference here:
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