Digitizing Numismatics: Getting the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Coins to the World-Wide Web
The Heroic Age, Issue 12 (May 2009)
Medieval studies is always greedy for more evidence, yet numismatics, which can be seen to sit uncomfortably between archaeology, art history and amateur collecting, is rarely given the importance it deserves. This article explains what it is that those who pay no attention to medieval coins may be missing, and sets this in the context of the theme of the series by explaining the writer’s present employment at the Fitzwilliam Museum with an introduction to its collections of coins and the process of making them available to all on the world-wide web.
Scholars of the early Middle Ages must be grateful for any evidence that comes to hand, and so it will hardly be necessary to explain to the readers of The Heroic Age that coins, when they can be found, are a useful source. All the same, the use of coins as historical evidence is less self-evident than it might appear, and requires some caution in its interpretation (Grierson 1975, relied on throughout; also for medievalists Grierson 1976, Coupland 2005, 211–2). This article aims to make clear the potential and problems of numismatic evidence to the reader, before explaining some of the work on which the writer is currently engaged to increase the availability of such evidence to the enquirer on the world-wide web.