British Numismatic Society : Medals, Prizes   Funds
BNS Medal
The British Numismatic Society

Promoting the study of coins, medals, tokens and banknotes

Medals, Prizes & Funds


2014 Internships

Dominic Chorney, Fitzwilliam Museum

My BNS summer internship took place over four weeks, and was based at the Department of Coins and Medals at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. My hours were 10 am to 4:30 pm, and I was provided with tasks oriented towards my particular numismatic interests. The result was an enjoyable and stimulating month, working with the collections of one of Britain's most renowned museums.

The first half of my internship focused on Roman coins from the third century AD. Many of these coins, while ticketed with British Museum catalogue numbers, did not have Roman Imperial Coinage (The most commonly cited reference catalogue) numbers. Others bore RIC numbers, but not Cunetio catalogue numbers (the preferred catalogue for later third century radiate coins). It was my job to check the coins were correctly identified, and then to add more up-to-date catalogue numbers to the tickets. Over two thousand coins must have passed through my hands in the first two weeks. Many of the coin labels were very old themselves, some having been written in the 19th century. It was satisfying to add to these pieces of numismatic history. Thanks to this work, I am now significantly more confident cataloguing Roman coins.

The third and fourth weeks mainly consisted of database work. I was assigned the ongoing task of digitising the McClean collection of Greek and Roman Provincial coins. This entailed entering information about each coin into the AdLib database. This task was enjoyable, as it allowed me to handle each of the roughly one thousand coins I added to the spreadsheet. While Greek coins were not my strong point, I learned a lot through this database work, and the knowledge gained has helped a great deal with regards to my Masters course, where Greek coins are often pivotal in lectures. And of course, the coins were very beautiful.

In my final week I visited the Conservation Department. There I was introduced to the basics of artefact conservation, and shown some interesting examples of coins undergoing restoration or consolidation. The knowledge I've gained regarding the state of metals such as copper-alloy and silver has been invaluable. It was also interesting to see the different chemicals used in the field of conservation.

The staff in the Coins and Medals Department were wonderful; not only with regards to the tasks I was set, but with general advice for the future including how to tackle postgraduate courses and the best ways to approach a PHd. They were also extremely welcoming and friendly, and I found the atmosphere of the department very comfortable. The cracking of a bottle of bubbly on my leaving day was a touching gesture.

I was housed in accommodation at Wolfson College, Cambridge. This was an excellent place to spend the month, and I thank Adrian Popescu at the Fitzwilliam Museum, for sorting out my accommodation, and the British Numismatic Society for providing the funding that paid for it. I very much enjoyed the atmosphere of Cambridge. By the second week however, it became evident I should have bought a bicycle with me!

Overall my internship at the Fitzwilliam was an excellent experience, and one I am grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in. The knowledge I have gained will (and already is) helping me in my Postgraduate studies. It is an experience I will remember fondly for years to come.

Dakota Bagley-Sweet, York Museums Trust

Initially, it came as a great surprise to me to learn that I had been offered a funded BNS internship at the Yorkshire Museum, not least because I have no background in coins. However I soon found my pace with the work and, actually, found that the experience was relatively balanced between numismatic documentation work and curatorial output and exhibition work, more in line with my interests. The first half of the month long internships was spent assessing and documenting part of a collection of Roman coins from a 1958-9 excavation at Catterick.

The first step in this process was to organise the 200 or so coins split between two boxes into logical, chronological order for the sake of convenience during the documentation phase. This later phase of the project constituted the bulk of the work and took most of the first half of the internship. Once each coin was properly accession into and described in Adlib, the entries were matched with corresponding, high-quality studio photographs of the coins. This process, whilst perhaps tedious, was only really made difficult due to a liberal dissemination of 'unique' small finds numbers during the initial excavation some 50+ years ago. This original lack of attention to detail on site tended to snowball into substantial headaches over the course of this project, but was, hopefully, resolved by the end.

Once the coins were properly input into adlib with corresponding photographs and descriptions, the focus of the project turned more to outputs and exhibition. By happy coincidence, the European Researchers Night took place during my internship, with the Yorkshire Museum acting as one of the many hosts of the event across York. The museum had nearly 1000 visitors over the course of the night, which was around double the expected numbers. Most of the visitor numbers constituted families and small children which presented its own challenges and rewards to actively displaying ancient material with a hands-on focus. Largely, though, it was rewarding and refreshing to work with families and children, as it is not a commonly seen demographic within research contexts.

The final aspect of the internship was focused on the curation of an exhibit within a temporary exhibition space in the lobby of the museum. The focus for this exhibition was following the narrative of the fabled Ninth Legion and contextualising its fate with the coins, as well as other finds from Catterick. The exhibition was installed on the last day of my internship so it will be interesting to see its reception over the coming weeks and gauge audience opinion; what might have been improved and/or what worked well.

Carl Savage, York Museums Trust

I undertook my BNS internship with the York Museums Trust in October. The internship was focused on the Bootham School medieval coin hoard and I was working under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Woods. My main task was to record all the coins in the hoard onto Adlib, the museums database and to photograph the coins. I was also researching the discovery of the hoard and the archaeological evidence associated with the hoards findspot, as well as an analysis of the hoards contents.

During my time at the York Museums Trust I have learned that been a numismatic curator is not all about identifying coins but involves more varied roles such as planning and setting up displays. I have not only learned how to use museum databases but also to work in a museum environment (which were my main aims) and also to plan and set up displays using coins. The internship has allowed me to learn the basic skills of what is required to work with a large and varied coin collection in a museum environment.

I've certainly gained a great deal from my internship and am very thankful both to the British Numismatic Society for its funding and the Yorkshire Museum for the opportunity and skills gained. At this point, I feel well placed to apply for similar level jobs within the sector confidently, knowing that I've gained a good grounding in the fundamentals of museums work, broadly, to step into various roles relatively painlessly.