David WilliamMacDowell. Coin Collections: Their Preservation, Classification and Presentation. UNESCO, 1978, 83 pp. Available in US from: UNIPUB, 345 Park Avenue South, New York, NY ($7.00).
While the literature of numismatics is plentiful, it is highly specialized. Only rarely has an entire book been devoted to the practical aspects of the care of numismatic collections. It is, however, just these basic and practical aspects of numismatics that are addressed in this tidy paperback of less than one hundred pages.
Under the auspices of UNESCO, Dr. David William MacDowell, an eminent numismatist and former member of the Department of Coins and Medals of the British Museum, has assembled a basic program for cleaning, identification, storage and display of these beautiful and informative artifacts. In so doing, MacDowell relies not only on his own experiences, but also on the expertise of conservators, scientists and curators from the staff of the British Museum.
The volume is divided into five sections plus appendices and a bibliography. The sections are entitled “Cleaning and Preservation,” “Classification and Identification,” “Registration of Accessions,” “Storage and Display” and “Preparation of Catalogues.” While no single volume can present a definitive study of this range of topics, each section does provide an overview of basic principles and techniques. The first and fourth sections are most directly addressed to the actual care and treatment of coins. Under the heading of “Cleaning and Preservation” the author describes briefly the electrochemical basis of corrosion and then proceeds to describe the range of methods by which accretions and corrosion may or may not be removed from ancient coins. The liabilities as well as the benefits of each treatment are clearly and concisely delineated. The fourth section, “Storage and Display,” describes the range of possibilities available for safe storage of coins of varying compositions and condition, and provides the basic principles necessary for making an informed choice.
Coin Collections: Their Preservation, Classification and Presentation is the first of a proposed series of text and videotape kits designed by UNESCO for the continuing education of those directly responsible for the maintenance of cultural collections. At this time, however, the video portion of this production is not available. Its promise serves only to draw attention to the paucity of demonstrative visual materials that are a necessary adjunct to a text of this kind. The fifteen black and white photos which are included focus mainly on aspects of storage and display and do little to elucidate the methods of treatment described in the text. If the forthcoming videotape fills this gap, a laudable project indeed will be off to a good start.CliffordCraine