US Coins

Gilroy Roberts exhibit to open at third Philadelphia Mint

A replication of former U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Gilroy Roberts’ artist’s studio has found a permanent home for public exhibit at the Community College of Philadelphia in a structure that once served as the third Philadelphia Mint.

The exhibit is being developed as an outgrowth of the pledge of a $1.02 million donation from the Gilroy and Lillian P. Roberts Charitable Foundation to further educational outreach at the college.

The gift represents the largest single private donation in the school’s 46-year history.

The donation will be used to exhibit and preserve items from the personal collection of Gilroy Roberts, the ninth chief engraver of the U.S. Mint. Roberts served in the presidentially appointed chief engraver’s post from 1948 to 1964.

Officials at the college are hoping that the Roberts exhibit — planned for a circular hallway within the 1700 Spring Garden St. building’s rotunda — can be ready by late fall. However, officials suggested the process could be accelerated after learning from Coin World March 28 of the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money to be held Aug. 7 through 11 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. That would allow the college to showcase the exhibit during the ANA show.

The Spring Garden Street structure that served as the third Philadelphia Mint is located just over a mile away from the convention center and the ANA’s 225,000-square-foot bourse.

According to Earni Young, public relations specialist in the college’s office of marketing and government relations, the yellow granite former Mint building currently serves as an administrative headquarters for the college.

Offices for the President and cabinet members are on the second floor,” Young said. “The Rotunda is at the mezzanine level. At its rear (south) the Mint is connected to the Bonnell Building and on its west side, another bridge connects it to the West Building. These are newer buildings constructed as part of the original move to the Mint.

“The historic facade of the Mint facing Spring Garden Street and 16th Street are undisturbed.”

The college received the keys to the Mint Building on Feb. 3, 1971, with the first classes held in the building in September 1973.

The Mint Building also houses the studios and classrooms for the college’s Art Department.

Much of Gilroy Roberts’ personal sculpturing materials, plasters and associated materials filled his studio that once was in the basement of his Newtown, Pa., home.

Roberts died at age 86 on Jan. 26, 1992.

Before Roberts’ death, the Gilroy and Lillian P. Roberts Charitable Foundation arranged for the ANA to receive on permanent loan for extended exhibit a recreation of his studio containing those personal sculpturing and related items. A series of traveling exhibits also were created using items from Roberts’ collection.

The Roberts exhibit at the ANA was dedicated on the opening day of the ANA Summer Seminar in July 1991. The ANA exhibit replicated what Roberts’ basement office and studio looked like at the time of his death in 1992.

The exhibit was taken down in late 2000 or early 2001 while ANA headquarters underwent extensive renovations and was never reassembled.

Stanley Merves, a trustee for the Roberts Foundation, learned of the Roberts exhibit being removed from public display and subsequently arranged for the Roberts items to be crated and shipped to Temple University while a new permanent home for an exhibit could be found.

Merves said he believed that permanent home would be in a new building to be constructed as part of the Tyler School of Art.

As part of receiving a $500,000 gift from the Roberts foundation, it was anticipated, Merves said, that 500 square feet in a prominent area of the new structure would be designated for the Roberts Collection. Another 500 feet would be set for storing items that were not on display but that could be periodically rotated in and out of the public exhibit.

By the time the building was completed after four years of construction, space for the exhibit had not been incorporated into the building’s design. Merves said that all along he was seeking a permanent home for the Roberts Collection, not a home for a set period of time, nor for just a room named after the former chief engraver.

Merves said Temple University’s administration from its president on down had subsequently changed, and many of the people with whom he had been negotiating for the Roberts exhibit’s placement had left the university.

In 2011, Merves took steps to secure the return of the $500,000 gift that had been made to Temple University after terms under which the gift was being made from the Roberts foundation were not kept.

Merves was successful with that effort in the fall of 2011, with the total gift returned to the Roberts foundation.

That $500,000 originally gifted to Temple University now represents the initial gift to the Community College of Philadelphia, with the remaining $502,000 being forwarded from the Roberts foundation to the college in installments over the next several years, according to Merves.

Gregory Murphy, the college’s associate vice president for advancement, said March 28 said the Community College of Philadelphia is sending out requests for bids to architectural firms with expertise on creating and mounting exhibits and designing exhibit space.

Ideas for the exhibit space have also been contributed to the college by its second-year architectural students, Murphy said.

Murphy said the Roberts Collection was received by the Community College of Philadelphia from Temple University on Jan. 27.

Until the formal preparation and installation of the Roberts exhibit, Murphy said, “the collection is being stored right in the Mint Building. As you may imagine, there are many VERY secure places in the building from the days when coins were minted in precious metals.”

The Roberts Collection includes many of Gilroy Roberts’ sculpturing tools, including some homemade items; plaster models and galvanos for coins and medals, including some of the coins and medals produced; sculptures and paintings; materials used for design inspiration; coin and medal drawings; photos of the third Philadelphia Mint from its days as a functional production facility; and even an engine used for engine-turned engraving, Murphy said.

In addition to displaying Roberts’ personal items, the exhibit is also being designed to include educational interactive components.

Since the college’s acquisition of the Mint Building in 1971, the facility’s rotunda has primarily been used for receptions and art exhibitions. ¦

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