Happy New Year and welcome to our 2016 blog. The Museum would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our supporters and to give you a brief summary of our Inventory Project along with a sneak preview of some of the exciting events coming up this year.
The initial term of the Museum’s Inventory Project, which began in 2014, has now finished. The short-term project aimed to create an inventory of selected parts of the collection, including the coins, medals and seals housed in the core collection and the dies, electrotypes, plaster models and rubber moulds from the reference collection.
Over 15 months the Collections Assistants worked to re-package and re-organise large sections of the collection as they were catalogued. During the course of the project more than 13,000 dies were cleaned and coated to protect them from future corrosion. In addition new cleaning and environmental monitoring routines were put in place to identify future conservation issues. Precise figures now exist for the catalogued parts of the collection and in total we listed over 100,000 objects. These figures will inform future space planning in relation to collection growth.
Due to the creation of this detailed inventory the Museum has been able to make significant improvements in the way the collection is managed as the new databases facilitate the movement of objects and the integration of new material into the Museum. Most importantly the Inventory Project has improved accessibility to the collection, benefiting the Museum’s future endeavours.
In April 2014 it was announced that the Royal Mint would be constructing a Visitor Centre here at the Llantrisant site. The opening of this attraction in spring 2016 marks a new chapter for how the Museum’s collection will be made publically accessible. The Visitor Centre will incorporate a factory tour and exhibition area, allowing items from the Museum’s collection to be placed on permanent display. Working with design and interpretation Company Mather & Co, key messages and content development for the exhibition is currently being established in readiness for opening.
The Museum is also delighted to be providing an on-site education service for the new centre and since January 2015 work has been running apace. With so much excellent material to choose from 1000 years of history, deciding where to start was a challenge. However, with support from local teachers, development of the new sessions is taking shape.
As a result of other changes a large part of the Museum’s collection, including the extensive Library, will be moving to a new location on site. This move is a challenging undertaking for the Collections Management team but will ultimately see even more improvements in the storage of the objects in our care. A continuing inventory of the Museum’s main collection prior to moving has seen another 10,000 objects listed, including books, journals, wax seal impressions and glass slides. The move should be completed by the end of March and we will keep you updated as events unfold.
In 2016 we will have a number of restoration and conservation projects taking place. In the next few weeks a Janvier reducing machine, used to produce punches for coins, and medals, will be brought back to its former glory. The project will be undertaken by Ken Stoat who, before his retirement, was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the reducing machines at the Royal Mint. Given that he started his career at the Mint’s Tower Hill site in London, he is one of the most experienced people we could have wished to carry out this work. Once restored, this fascinating machine will be put on display in the Visitor Centre.
In the grounds of the Llantrisant site we have a series of large machines, including coining and blanking presses dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These machines were brought from Tower Hill during the move to Wales in the 1970’s. A recent condition assessment by the Collections Assistants has identified that they are actively corroding due to a failure in the paint coating. To protect them from further decay these irreplaceable pieces of Royal Mint history will be taken off site for conservation.
It is fitting that the Visitor Centre will be opened in 2016 as this year will see the Museum reach an important milestone, its 200th anniversary. Preparations are being made to celebrate this significant occasion. In February, a one-day conference will be held at the Tower of London. For this invitation only event, a distinguished programme of speakers has been arranged. The subjects covered will trace the history of the Museum’s collection, the characters who have shaped its development, its influence on the design of the United Kingdom’s coins and medals, and its contribution to the wider academic and museum community.
Research, Talks and Publications
2016 will also see three new publications. A book by the art historian Kate Eustace will explore the way cultural trends and artistic interpretations throughout history have influenced the depiction of Britannia on coins and medals.
The Museum’s Director Kevin Clancy will be writing a revised edition of The Royal Mint: An Illustrated History the first edition having been written in 1986 previously published by Graham Dyer, Senior Research Curator.
Finally, the Museum team is writing a Guide Book to compliment the Visitor Centre. This work will explore the objects on display and provide a souvenir of the experience.
In addition to these publications our Assistant Curator, Chris Barker, has a full calendar of lectures which will be given at the request of both local groups and national organisations, such as the Women’s Institute. Chris will also be busy answering the substantial number of inquiries the Museum receives from both the public and staff at the Royal Mint. Last year we received 3,411 of these queries; this does not include the number of coins that were submitted for examination to establish their authenticity.
We hope you have enjoyed reading about the projects and events that are taking place in the Museum. We have a continuing programme of blog posts planned in the first quarter of this year to highlight and interpret parts of the collection, as well as posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages to keep you updated on our activities. If you have any ideas for posts you would like to see, feel free to let us know in the comments’ section. We would like to hear from you. Once again, thank you for your support and we hope you are looking forward to 2016 as much as we are!