RNS Medallist 2013: Michael Alram

Over the course of the next few weeks the RNS blog will revisit some of the more recent awardees of the RNS medal. Traditionally, the President’s address on the subject of the Medallist, and the Medallist’s response if they were not present to accept in person, were published in the Numismatic Chronicle. This record of the achievements of senior colleagues in the field is now migrating to the web, and these posts are also linked to the list of Medallists under ‘Society Honours and Awards‘. 

In awarding the medal at the Ordinary Meeting of the Society on 17 December 2013, the President, Andrew Burnett, said:

The Royal Numismatic Society’s Medal was instituted in 1883, and is awarded annually to ‘some person highly distinguished for services to Numismatic Science’. The current design for the medal was first presented in 1993, and is made from a design commissioned from Ian Rank-Broadley, the artist responsible, among many other things, for the Queen’s portrait on our coins today. It depicts Hercules struggling with the Nemean lion, a metaphor of the recipient’s long and arduous – but ultimately successful – struggle and achievement.

This year it is a great pleasure to award it to Michael Alram.

Michael Alram

Michael Alram, image used from Coins Weekly

Michael Alram was appointed as Curator for Byzantine, Medieval and Oriental Coins at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna in 1986, and in 2008 became the Director of the Coin Cabinet. In that time he has made a significant contribution to scholarship, both with personal research and through teaching, collaboration, and public engagement. His principal interest is Iran and Central Asia; he has contributed articles on the Hunnic coinages of the fourth to eighth centuries, and is presently leading efforts to catalogue pre-Islamic Iranian coinages through the Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum (with Rika Gyselen) – for which he was awarded our own Gilljam Prize – , and Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum (with Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis). A complete list of his work on this field is extremely lengthy. He has actively encouraged new engagement with the neglected periods of Central Asia through the Coins, Art and Chronology International Conferences, both resulting in major edited volumes (in 1999 and 2011). He has established contacts with numismatists both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and he has been involved in training Afghan numismatists in Kabul and Vienna. He enjoys a cordial relationship with colleagues at the National Museum of Iran.

His contribution is not limited to Central Asia and Iran. Dr Alram has also published major works on fields: an admirable incursion into Roman coinage (such as Die Münzprägung des Kaisers Maximinus I. Thrax (235/238) in 1989) and a number of studies on medieval coinage, especially that of Austria.

He has been actively involved in teaching, mostly in Vienna, and also at the American Numismatic Society, where he was Visiting Scholar in 1997, and the Institute of Advanced Studies in New Delhi. Alongside teaching there has been a strong engagement with the numismatic community, as Vice-President of ICOMON (1998-2004), Vice-Chair and then Chair of the Numismatic Commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He recently became Vice-President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and is Secretary of the International Numismatic Commission, as well as a Senior Fellow of the prestigious ISAW in New York.

He has also shown a strong commitment to what would be called ‘impact’ nowadays in Britain, by organising many exhibitions including “Weihrauch und Seide – Alte Kulturen an der Seidenstrasse” (1996), “7000 Jahre Persische Kunst – Meisterwerke aus dem Iranischen Nationalmuseum Teheran” (2000), “Geld aus China” (2003), and, currently – a brave attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of the Huns – “Das Antlitz des Fremden (2012)” (The Face of a Stranger). Michael: you are no stranger, but among your friends, all of whom are delighted to congratulate on this award of the Society’s medal.

 

In accepting the medal, Michael Alram said:

Sehr geehrter Herr Präsident,

für die hohe Auszeichnung, die mir heute zuteil geworden ist, darf ich mich sehr herzlich bedanken! In den illustren Kreis der Medallists der Royal Numismatic Society aufgenommen worden zu sein, ist für jeden Numismatiker eine ganz besondere  Ehre, und ich habe mich außerordentlich darüber gefreut! 

Meine ersten Kontakte mit britischen Kollegen gehen in das Jahr 1980 zurück, als mich mein Lehrer, Robert Göbl, ans British Museum schickte, um einige Kushanmünzen für sein Corpuswerk zu fotografieren. Als kleiner Student erstmals das berühmte Department of Coins and Medals betreten zu dürfen, war für mich natürlich sehr aufregend, doch der überaus freundliche Empfang durch Robert Carson, der mich mit einer Tasse Tee beruhigte, nahm mir rasch die erste Scheu. Weitergereicht wurde ich an einen jungen Kollegen, Joe Cribb, der mich mit den gewünschten Münzen versorgte. Wir kamen dabei rasch ins Gespräch, und Joe zeigte mir einen Fund aus dem nordwestindischen Raum, in dem er Münzen eines bisher unbekannten indo-parthischen Königs namens Hybouzanes entdeckt hatte. Sprachlos  zeigte ich ihm daraufhin meine jüngste Entdeckung: auch ich war nämlich auf den Namen des Hybouzanes gestoßen, jedoch auf ostiransichen Drachmen aus Sistan. Das war meine erste „große“ numismatische Entdeckung, und Joe hatte mir dazu eine glänzende Bestätigung geliefert.

Dieses Erlebnis stand gleichsam am Beginn meiner wissenschaftlichen Karriere, die ohne die immer enger werdenden Verbindungen zu meinen britischen Kollegen und Freunden wohl anders verlaufen wäre. Sie alle haben somit auch Anteil an dieser Auszeichnung, für die ich noch einmal aufrichtig zu danken habe!

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