Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now Online: The University of Virginia Art Museum Numismatic Collection

The University of Virginia Art Museum has now placed its numismatic collection online. The collection is relatively small compared to some of the other digitized collections I have called attention to, but I believe the digitization and public archiving of any public collection is essential for the advancement of numismatic research.

The collection has about 600 ancient and medieval coins online - all of them are accompanied with descriptions, references, and images. What is really great about this project is that poorly preserved and worn coins, which are often ignored by museums, are also photographed and placed online. I must say that having tried to photograph coins in that condition myself and knowing how difficult and tedious that can be, those who imaged these very worn and corroded coins have done an excellent job. Ethan Gruber, one of the programers involved in the project, informs me that many of the corroded coins are too fragile to be handled repeatedly by students and scholars and so it is good that we now have a digital record of these specimens

One can search the database through various keyword searches or by browsing through an array of options: name (of ruler), dynasty, century, location, material, denomination, deity, subject, department, institution, or collection.

The homepage of the project also states:

"The collection was described in Encoded Archival Description (EAD), with several coin-specific adaptations to describe physical attributes such as legends and iconography. This project appears to be unique in its application of EAD to numismatics. In addition to EAD's capability of describing the physical attributes of each object in the collection, administrative history, essays, and index terms can be encoded in XML to create completely comprehensive metadata for those students and scholars of numismatics to use as a tool in their research."

Computer gurus will know more about what all this means than I. In my 10-15 minutes of browsing the collection, I personally find the interface rather comfortable.

I am grateful to Ethan Gruber for bringing this collection and the database to my attention.

The University of Virginia Art Museum Numismatic Collection:

Image: Screenshot of a record from the database.