Catherine Eagleton, curator, British Museum
The Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum has a collection of around a million objects – coins, paper money, tokens, credit cards, and other money-related objects, as well as medals and badges. Any objects going on display – including the more than 1,000 objects in the new Citi Money Gallery – need to have been photographed beforehand for our records. But, we’re also working to create images of as many of the objects in our collection as possible, to upload to our collection online.
Working on this database is a hugely important part of the day-to-day work of curators at the Museum, since the better the records and images available online, the more people can access and study our collection, from anywhere in the world.
Recently, we were helped in this task by some volunteers from Citi, who each gave up a day of their time to do what curators sometimes think is a rather boring task: individually photographing both sides of large numbers of objects.
Yiting Shen, co-chair of the Citi London Volunteer Council, explained that voluntary work in a museum had long been an ambition:
‘Thinking that even counting the coins (over a million objects) would be fun, we managed to land a project to photograph and scan objects from the American coins and medals collection. A total of 565 objects were scanned and catalogued over the two days between two groups of six volunteers.’
We chose the American tokens for these two days, since Citi are celebrating their 200th anniversary this year, and the bank began – in 1812 – in the then newly-formed United States of America.
Some of the tokens the team photographed were from the period of the American Civil War, others were gambling tokens from modern Las Vegas, and one volunteer was particularly excited by a “chucky cheese” token.
‘We learned that this is time consuming work, but all of the volunteers were very happy about having made an impact and giving the US collection international exposure. We also learned a lot about behind the scenes work at the Museum, from the basics on how to read a coin record and the meaning behind all the numbers each object has been given, to naming them consistently for automatic bulk upload. We also learned more about each other and our strengths beyond our professional banking jobs. One of our volunteers is a former archaeologist and was very active in sharing his insights. Volunteers had fun wearing the ever so fashionable finger gloves curators wear to handle the objects, and shared laughs on discovering the old and quirky coins, such as shower tokens.’
The next step was to upload the images to the collection online and make them available for all the world to see. I’ll leave the last word to Yiting:
‘For me it’s a real source of pride –to contribute to public learning of the past, present and future of money, and seeing many visitors taking photos, the finger prints on the glass cases as they try to get a closer look, and the Citi virtual card for Google Wallet on display makes me smile.’
Staff from Citi were volunteering as part of the annual Citi Global Community Day
The Money Gallery is supported by Citi .