Rutgers Classics associate professor T. Corey Brennan, in collaboration with Rutgers University Libraries, has received a significant grant from Harvard’s Loeb Classical Library Foundation for 2013/4. The object? To bring fully into the digital realm the Ernst Badian Collection of Roman Republican Coins, which is housed in the Special Collections and University Archives of the Rutgers University Libraries.
The collection is an extraordinary one. It numbers about 1250 Republican coins, augmented by a few dozen Greek and Roman Imperial issues. The Republican component of the Rutgers collection is remarkable for its comprehensiveness, historical value, and the fine condition of most of its individual pieces.
A bit of background. In late 2000 an unusually generous benefaction by Professor Ernst Badian—then John Moors Cabot Professor of History Emeritus and Professor of the Classics Emeritus in Harvard University—started to bring these coins to Rutgers in installments. The gift of this collection, which had been acquired with an expert eye and much continued effort over many decades, promises to make Rutgers an important center for teaching and research in this area.
What is especially important is that Badian also graciously shared with the Rutgers Libraries his own notes describing each of the coins. In a significant number of instances Badian’s descriptions and analysis differ from the fundamental works in this field: E.A. Sydenham, The Coinage of the Roman Republic (1952), and M.H. Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage (2 vols., 1974), as well as the handbook of D.R. Sear, Roman Coins and their Values vol. 1 (5th edition, 2000). Taken as a whole, Badian’s detailed notes represent a fresh and invaluable correction and supplement to these reference works, at a point when the chief among them (Crawford’s RRC) soon will be celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Since 2001, use of the Rutgers Republican Roman coin collection has been largely restricted to undergraduate and graduate courses in Classics. But in fall 2005 Rutgers hosted a three-month exhibition which was the first public display of these coins. The New Jersey Council for the Humanities and the Friends of the Rutgers University Libraries helped fund the event, and Rutgers University Libraries published a 72 page catalogue to accompany the show.
The exhibition had as its major themes the evolution of the technical aspects of coinage in the earlier Republic, and political and social developments that are reflected in Rome’s money. The period covered ran from the introduction of coinage down to 91 BCE, the start of Rome’s “Social War” against its Italian allies, and with it, a new era in the coinage. Ernst Badian opened the exhibition by delivering the university’s Louis Faugères Bishop III Lecture for 2005, choosing as his theme the development of Roman Republican coinage.
The unexpected death of Ernst Badian in February 2011 brought all remaining coins in his collection to Rutgers, as well as his numismatic library—consisting of annotated copies of Sydenham, Crawford and hundreds of coin auction catalogues (sprinkled with notes). There is also a penetrating essay on the development of political imagery on coins through the Republican period that Badian composed for a small Harvard numismatic exhibition in spring 1983.
The upshot is that the Rutgers collection contains examples from practically every significant coin issue of the Republican period, as well as Ernst Badian’s original observations and research on this material. As such, it already has seen much use in the curriculum of the University’s Department of Classics, and even has played a part in outreach to New Jersey high school students.
So despite the fact that he had no institutional link with Rutgers, Badian positioned the University to make itself a serious site for teaching and research in Roman numismatics. In his memory, the collection has been named The Ernst Badian Collection of Roman Republican Coins. Curator of the Badian collection is Thomas M. Izbicki, who is Interim Associate University Librarian for Collection Development and Management, Humanities Librarian, and Associate University Librarian (Research and Instructional Services).
The next step is the creation of a web-based public photo portal and archive for the coins, with metadata designed for ancient numismatics. A pilot version has been up and running on the Rutgers intranet since 2005; the Loeb grant will enable the completion of a fully revised and expanded website hosting high-quality representations of and scholarly information on all 1250+ coins.
The web-based portal for this comprehensive digital collection of Roman Coins will integrate sophisticated search methods, including faceted browsing, and collaboration tools, including the Analytic, a tool developed by Rutgers University Libraries and usable for selecting, annotating and analyzing specific coins. A robust faceted search tool will allow researchers to browse the collection based on important historical and numismatic values, such as denomination, issuer, or iconography. The portal will also provide high quality images of each coin in which users can view not only the obverse and reverse, but also the edge and several oblique angles.
In its fully realized form, this web-based portal will alert scholars and students worldwide to the value and utility of the Badian Collection for research and teaching. The model will be scalable and able to integrate new instructional and research resources. Furthermore, the archived annotations by scholars, instructors, and students will constitute a stream of further numismatic research.
The digital copy of each coin will be preserved in Rutgers’ institutional repository, RUCore. And the tools created for the Badian Collection will be made available for the treatment of other numismatic collections, sharing both content and information resources with scholars and students world-wide, to enable searches across collections (“federated searching”).
This is a collaborative effort that represents the work of many individuals across the Rutgers system, including Gary Farney (chair, Department of History, Rutgers-Newark, and a specialist in Roman Republican numismatics); and from the Rutgers University Libraries, Thomas Izbicki (on whom see above); also Ronald Becker, Fernanda Perrone, Tim Corlis, and Evelyn Kim Adams (Special Collections and University Archives); Ronald Jantz (Technical and Automated Services); Lorraine Slavik (Research and Instructional Services); and Rutgers School of Communication and Information Studies students Rick Hale (MLIS 2012, and incoming MA/PhD student in Rutgers Classics), Annamarie Klose (MLIS 2013), and Scott Goldstein (MLIS 2013).
For an appreciation of Ernst Badian’s contributions to the field of Greek and Roman history, one could hardly find a better starting point than a recent publication by the Association of Ancient Historians—which Badian helped found in 1969. It is a volume entitled The Legacy of Ernst Badian, and it features essays by Corey Brennan, Stanley Burstein, Eugene Borza, Jerzy Linderski and Carol Thomas on various aspects of Badian’s massive impact on the field of ancient studies in the post WW II era.