MEDAL COLLECTORS OF AMERICA MEETS IN BOSTON
Author: Wayne Homren   -   Monday November 12, 2018

Neil Musante of MCA submitted this report on the just-concluded medal symposium held at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Thanks! -Editor

On Saturday, November 10, the Medals Collectors of America and the Massachusetts Historical Society conducted a day long symposium on the Medal titled “Art and Memory - the Role of Medals.” The 80 or so attendees were treated to an exhibition of some of the great numismatic treasures held in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. After coffee and bagels, a series of lectures were offered by an impressive array of speakers.

 

MCA 2018 Boston conference speaker 

 

 

Catherine Allgor, President of the Massachusetts Historical Society 
welcomes guests to the conference

 

 

MCA 2018 Boston conference panel participants 

 

 

Panelists Robert Hoge, Ira Rezak, Scott Miller, Cory Gilliland

 

The morning began with a gracious welcome from Anne Bentley, Curator of Art and Artifacts at the MHS. Anne told the wonderful history of the collection from its earliest acquisitions to the present day. This was followed by John Sallay, who reprised his fascinating presentation from the MCA club meeting held at the ANA convention this past August - Their Secrets Revealed! Early American College Secret Society Medals. Alan Stahl, Curator of Numismatics at Princeton University, gave a really interesting talk on the origins and use of medallic symbolism titled Medallic America: Allegorical Representations of America on European and American Medals. A panel consisting of Cory Gilliland, Curator Emerita of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institute, Robert Hoge, Curator Emeritus of the ANS, Scott Miller, author of the book Medallic Art of the American Numismatic Society, 1865-2014, was led in a discussion on “The Art of the Medal,” moderated by ANS Fellow Ira Rezak. This included a lively question and answer followup as participants attempted to define just what constitutes a Medal and what qualifies as “Medallic Art.”

After lunch, attendees were welcomed by new MHS President, Catherine Allgor. Patrick McMahon, Director of Exhibitions at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts delivered a phenomenal paper on The Early Work of Victor David Brenner, followed by an equally great talk on So-Called Dollars as a Reflection of Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century American Culture, by Jonathan Brecher, co-author of the book So-Called Dollars: An Illustrated Standard Catalog. In the afternoon session, Leonard Augsburger, Project Coordinator for the Newman Numismatic Portal talked on Books and the Medal. Ute Wartenburg Kagan, Executive Director of the American Numismatic Society detailed the fascinating and remarkably successful effort by the ANS to acquire the dies and galvanos of the former Medallic Art Company.

 

MCA 2018 Boston conference Adams moderating panel

 

 

John Adams moderating at podium with panelists 
Dave Bowers, Rob Rodriguez, Stephen Scher and John Sallay

 

The program concluded with a panel discussion on Why Collect Medals. John Adams, numismatic author, researcher and long time editor of The MCA Advisory, brought together the “authors” of some of the greatest collections ever assembled. Stephen Scher, told the story of his earliest acquisition and how that led to the formation of his extraordinary collection of Renaissance portrait medals. John Sallay followed with the tale of his first acquisition, leading to the formation of the most remarkable collection of school medals ever assembled. Rob Rodriguez told us how a bronze Libertas Americana medal inadvertently removed from a box while viewing coin auction lots completely threw him over, and led him to a new and perhaps even more passionate pursuit than coins. To complete the panel, the great Q. David Bowers waxed eloquent on several of his favorite American medals, including the famed 1787 Columbia and Washington medal and the New Haven Bicentennial medal of 1838. Indeed, the audience could have listened to these five gentlemen for the entire evening.

A group of about 60, then adjourned to a private room at the Colonnade Hotel where a really nice dinner was enjoyed by all. The opportunity to meet and talk with fellow collectors and especially with the speakers and panelists was truly a gift, and the organizers of this event are to be thanked and congratulated. The biggest news however, was delivered at the close of the evening by Catherine Allgor, MHS President, who announced the formation of the Anne E. Bentley Fund, established in Anne’s honor for her long and dedicated service to the MHS and its collections, especially their numismatic holdings. Its purpose will be the improvement and expansion of this remarkable numismatic treasure. Anyone interested in learning more or helping with this fund can contact Vice President of Development, Maureen H. Nguyen at mnguyen@masshist.org .

The presentations and panel discussions were all recorded, and will soon be posted to the websites of the MHS (www.masshist.org) and the MCA (www.medalcollectors.org), where information about joining this great organization will also be found.

 

Len Augsburger participated in this week's MCA conference in Boston and filed this report. Thanks! Photos courtesy Len Augsburger and his wife Debra Kurtz. -Editor

 

The first conference of the Medal Collectors of America, Art and Memory: The Role of Medals, was held Saturday, November 10 at the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) in Boston. Anne Bentley, MHS Curator of Art and Artifacts kicked off the event with a brief overview of the MHS collection, and had selected a number of pieces from the collection that were on exhibit during the conference. These treasures included the gold Manly medal, a Jefferson inaugural medal, and of course the George Washington presentation set of silver Comitia Americana medals.

 

MCA 2018 Boston conference lobby 
Registration in the MHS Lobby

 

 

MCA 2018 Boston conference poster MCA 2018 Boston conference opening 
Program Cover and Opening Session

 

Conference speakers included John Sallay (early American college secret society medals), Alan Stahl (allegorical representations of America on medals), Patrick McMahon (the early work of Victor D. Brenner), Jonathan Brecher (so-called dollars), Len Augsburger (medals and books), and Ute Wartenberg Kagan (Medallic Art Company archives at the ANS). In addition to these presentations, two panel discussions covered “The Art of the Medal” (Ira Rezak, Cory Gilliland, Robert Hoge, and Scott Miller), and “Why Collect Medals?” (John Adams, Q. David Bowers, Rob Rodriguez, Stephen Scher, and John Sallay).

“The Art of the Medal” raised the provocative question “what is a medal?,” and the illustrations of several examples from the recent FIDEM conference led to a lively discussion of a question that is harder to answer than one might first think.

The MHS was a wonderful host to this event, which included brief remarks from Catherine Allgor, MHS president. The MHS building is delightful and inspiring all at once, and one would be hard pressed to imagine a more hospitable venue, which was exceeded only by the quality of the various presentations. The day concluded with a reception at MHS followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant. We are indebted to John Sallay, MCA board member, Anne Bentley of MHS, and to all who helped facilitate this marvelous event.

 

MCA 2018 Boston conference Len Augsburger speaking 1 
Len Augsburger speaking

 

 

MCA 2018 Boston conference panel 
Panel discussion

 

 

MCA 2018 Boston conference Washington's silver Comitia Americana medal set 
George Washington's silver Comitia Americana medal set

 

 

What a great event! I wish I'd been able to attend. Even in the internet age there's no substitute for in-person gatherings such as this. Multipurpose coin shows and conventions are important, but birds-of-a-feather gatherings are memorable, influential, not-to-be-missed events for those with a strong interest in the subject. Military collectors have done this for years with the MPC Fest, and I hope MCA can pull off an encore event someday. It's something every specialty society should consider.

 
 
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