The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History officially
opened its new exhibit of the National Numismatic Collection titled
“The Value of Money” on July 15. The opening was timed to coincide
with Whitman’s Baltimore Expo, and the evening opening event included
many of the biggest names in numismatics, many of whom were donors to
The display, which had a soft opening on July 1 and was then closed
to make adjustments, provides a broad view of numismatics, with
objects spanning more than 2,600 years. It works to the collection’s
unique strengths across geography and time.
The exhibit examines the origins of money, the political and
cultural messages that money conveys, new monetary technologies, and
how people collect money today. At 1,000 square feet, the new display
triples the floor space devoted to numismatics in the current
exhibition titled “Stories on Money.” That exhibit remains open,
although several of the coins that were in that display are absent, as
they are now included in the new display.
Among those speaking before the ribbon cutting at the opening were
John Gray, director of the National Museum of American History; David
Skorton, who was recently named the 13th secretary of the Smithsonian
Institution; Rosie Rios, the treasurer of the United States; and Jeff
Garrett, the incoming American Numismatic Association president, who
was instrumental in raising funds for the new exhibit. Garrett also
serves on the board of the National Museum of American History.
In his remarks, Skorton said that the American History museum was
different, stating, “It’s not a regular museum. ... it’s a cool one.”
Rios addressed the redesign of the $10 note to include a portrait of
a woman in her comments, characterizing the process of placing a woman
on the note as a “true honor.”
She said that the design will be unveiled in 2020, which is also the
centennial of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which provided
women with the right to vote, and that the new design would mark the
first woman on U.S. paper money since Martha Washington appeared in 1896.
Massive vault door
The first thing that visitors see when encountering the display is
the life-sized vault door produced for the display by Vault Structures
Inc. in Fort Meyers, Fla., which typically manufactures vault doors
for banks and other institutions. The vault door is not operational,
and while it won’t help keep the objects on display safe, the door is
intended to simulate the experience of entering the National
Numismatic Collection’s storage vault. Ellen R. Feingold, curator of
the National Numismatic Collection, said, “When visitors look through
the gallery’s vault door, we hope that they will feel as though they
are looking into the collection’s vault — a space that secures one of
the Smithsonian’s most valued collections.”
The Smithsonian said in comments describing the exhibit, “Upon
entering, visitors will feel as if they have stepped into a jewel box
of captivating treasures and surprising stories, particularly as they
approach a central display case featuring stunning collections.” The
central display case includes the collection’s greatest rarities, but
also visually interesting items such as an impressive and opulent gold
necklace made with Coronet type gold coins and a $100,000 note issued
for use in the U.S. Federal Reserve system in 1934.
There's more to this story. Check back with CoinWorld.com later for
a look at the objects on display in the exhibit.
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