In the Collection No. 1 (April 2021) “The Inaugural Entry: How a Curator is Made”

Where does one start?  This is the inaugural entry for one of the two blogs that we will host in association with the John Max Wulfing Collection of ancient coins and related objects.  While it might be obvious why there should be a blog to present, discuss, and draw attention to the contents of the Collection, the fact that there will be two blogs may not be so easily intuited.  The reasons are simple.  First, as large as the Wulfing Collection is (at c. 16,000 items currently) it is not so comprehensive that we can use it alone to talk about the whole range of numismatics in general; but no collection, not even those of Paris, Berlin, New York, or Athens, could perhaps ever be so large as to do fulfill that task.  Collections of all kinds should be used to provide new insight and knowledge.  Second, there are so many topics that truly belong to a much wider sphere of discussion that perhaps they should be tied to particular objects in the collection.  The other blog—Beyond the Collection—will do those other jobs just fine, while this blog will serve two other functions:  a) to discuss the shape and challenges of the Collection itself and b) to elucidate the features and significance of specific items within it.

            In order to meet those two objectives, I will alternate, roughly speaking, the entries between discussion of specific objects and discussion of the Collection’s curation.  As such, this and the next few entries will concentrate on the latter topic, the Collection and its curation.  In answer to my initial question posed above, therefore, perhaps the best place to start is to give a brief sketch of who I am as the curator and as a numismatist. 

           Although I am not one to draw attention to myself, there are two other considerations that motivate the following entry or two.  First, I wish to illustrate by way of personal example how I think one might become a curator or professional numismatist.  So many students, as I discover each semester at Washington University, find themselves utterly fascinated by coins, or by the ancient world in general, but hardly know where or how to start learning the skills and knowledge that they might wish to acquire.  As I hope to show below, and in the next several blogs, the answer lies in seizing the initiative, taking advantage of every opportunity possible, and demanding the best of oneself.  Second, if this blog is to be genuinely useful to those reading it for insight into the curation of the Wulfing Collection, then the curator’s background, perspective, and interests would seem to be a perfect starting point.