Making Money Moves: Rehousing the Spurlock Museum's Currency Collections overview image

Making Money Moves: Rehousing the Spurlock Museum's Currency Collections

  • Post Date: 06/04/2024
  • Author: Jacob Levan, collections assistant
  • Reading Time: 5 minute read

During the spring semester, student employees in Collections were hard at work rehousing the Spurlock Museum’s collection of currency. The Museum is home to over 3,000 paper bank notes and nearly 9,000 metal coins from across the globe, spanning thousands of years. In the past, this collection has been stored in a variety of inconsistent, and often confusing, labeled containers. This has made accessing these collections difficult. Recognizing the need for a more organized and efficient system, the Collections team embarked on a rehousing project. Their goal is to streamline access to these objects and ensure their long-term preservation for future scholars and museum visitors.

Bank Notes

The paper bank note collection is stored in archival grade plastic sleeves, within trays originally designed for library catalogue cards. While this method has made accessing these objects quite streamlined, the previous labeling system for the sleeves did not. These labels contained information already available within the Museum’s artifact database, making them redundant. Additionally, many of these labels were yellowing and the ink they were written in had begun to bleed.

  • two sealed bank notes in labels

To combat these issues, Collections students carefully removed the old labels from the sleeves with metal scrapers and placed new labels with only their accession number. These labels are printed in a much larger font size, allowing them to be easily read when quickly flipping through the drawers containing hundreds of notes.

  • a student removes a label on a bank note sleeve

Previously, several sleeves within this collection contained multiple bank notes. This was done to group together similar bills, making them, in theory, easier to access. However, since the paper notes are not physically labeled with accession numbers, this makes it difficult to distinguish one bill from another and requires the removal of the entire grouping if a single bank note is required. Throughout the rehousing process, the Collections team has separated these groupings, making it easier to identify individual bank notes. This is also more effective for the preservation of the bank notes, as the individual need of each note can be addressed separately.

Coins

Coins make up about 15% of the Spurlock’s entire collection. Many of these coins had been stored in coin binders or boxed in manilla pouches since the 1970s. These binders and boxes were originally organized by a variety of methods such as world region, time period, and other curatorial research projects. It was impossible to locate a coin without searching the database for its particular grouping. A standard method of storage and access was needed!

  • a red book containing coins in sleeves

Collections students have been transferring coins from their outdated housings to new, archival-grade sleeves called coin flips. These coin flips have two sides: one for the label and one for the coin itself. Before the coin is transferred to its new home, a double-sided label printed on archival paper is placed within the flip. This label displays the coin’s accession number, photographs of each side of the coin, and the coin’s dimensions. While the coin flips are designed to be folded over on themselves, the Collections team has opted to keep them unfolded. This allows the coins to be accessed more efficiently, as they do not have to be removed to be identified.

  • three coins in plastics flips on a white background

Once the coins are transferred to the plastic flips, they are placed into archival trays. In addition to being more efficient to access, these trays are more space efficient, taking up significantly less room than their previous binders and boxes. Once all coins have been rehoused, students will organize the entire coin collection numerically by accession number.

  • a student organizes coins

The rehousing of these collections makes it easier and quicker for Collections staff to access currency collections for scholars, university class visits, and exhibitions. This project also ensures that the currency collections are preserved and protected for future Museum visitors and researchers. If you’d like to learn more about the Spurlock’s collection of currency, or see some for yourself in person, come by our East Asia: "Invention, Exchange, Endurance" and Southeast Asia and Oceania: "Crossroads" exhibits, where we currently have both coins and bank notes on display.