Friday, 13 March 2015

The treasure in the library

Thomas B. Lockwood Memorial Library,
University of Buffalo, NY
photo:  Breadchastick
A successful treasure hunt resulted in the discovery of dozens of ancient Greek and Roman silver and gold coins. The treasure was not found in a farmer's field or at an archaeological site, but in the Thomas B. Lockwood Memorial Library at the University of Buffalo, NY. They had been donated about eighty years ago by Thomas B. Lockwood, himself. The irony is in the word "memorial", as the coins seemed to have been forgotten rather quickly. Perhaps that is why I have yet to see the name of the library in any of the news reports.

Although the collection is quite valuable, even its historical importance is probably not really "priceless" as is reported as all the coins illustrated so far in the reports are types already well-known. Mind you, an aureus of Otho does not come cheap, only the wealthy can afford such.

Coin collectors are wondering if bequeathing their collections to a museum is such a good idea, now. If you donate your collections to a university which then houses such in a library named after you (the main part of the collections was the works of James Joyce (one of the most expensive authors for collectors of modern first editions), then you probably would not expect that one of your collections would be stored away and forgotten.

In considering bequeathments, and at sixty five years old, the topic has already come up for me, many things should be taken into consideration. First, talk to your heirs about your ideas. If you are thinking of donating a collection, then think about how it will fit in to the current collections of the institute in question. Are such things already displayed there? Do scholars already use the institution to research such items? When Richard Hattatt donated some of his ancient brooch collection to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, they were types that were absent in the Ashmolean collection. The rest of his bequeathment to the museum was cash. He regularly sold off his brooches after he published each of them as part of a series. I used to have three of his brooches, myself. Hattatt's donation was carefully considered and he had enjoyed a long working relationship with the Ashmolean.

The other possibility, of course, is to have your collection return to the trade from whence it came and allow others to become as inspired by them as you were. But again, talk to your heirs: what you might think would be welcomed might just give them extra stress at a difficult time.

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