by Andrew Burnett, President
This report is modified from that given at the RNS AGM on 19th June 2018. A full text of the report as given to the AGM can be found here.
I am glad to be able to report that the Society in 2018 is in a good state, both in terms of its finances and its activities. As the annual accounts show, the Society has now received very substantial legacies from the late Marion Archibald and, in particular, John Casey.
I am very grateful to all the members of Council who give their time and expertise so freely to the Society. This year, three members are retiring – Graham Barker, Alex Magub and Max Tursi. In addition Sushma Jansari is stepping down as one of our Secretaries, after several years of cheerfully organising our grant programme and social media communication, among other things; Chris Howgego and Roger Bland are also completing their quinquennial term as Vice-Presidents, and I would thank them for all the support they has given me and the Society over that period. The officers of the Society take on the main burden of running the Society and they, as all members of Council, take on their functions voluntarily and in addition to their other activities; and they are not, of course, paid anything at all. I am especially grateful to the other Secretary Megan Gooch, who, together with Sushma and our new Treasurer, Peter Knapton, run the Society. They shoulder the administrative load (with the support of Henry Lythe), and I am grateful to them not just for their efficiency and effectiveness, but also for their seemingly endless patience and continuous geniality. Over the last year Peter has done a huge amount of work in improving the way our finances are organised and run. He has been replaced as Independent Examiner by Stefano Mazzola, and we are very grateful to him for taking on the role.
I would also like to thank the other members of the Finance and Investment sub-committee – Tristan Hillgarth, Eric McFadden and Chris Howgego, who so generously lend their expertise to ensuring the proper supervision of the Society’s funds. On their advice, Council have taken one major decision this year, to switch the Society’s investments from M&G to Smith and Williamson, a well-established and regarded investment manager, as this will allow the Society’s reserves to be actively managed.
I am also very grateful for Brad Shepherd who is taking on the role, with both Societies (the RNS and the BNS), of joint Hon. Librarian. Changes are being made to the way we run our library, and Brad is throwing himself into them with enormous energy. Our library is a priceless asset and for years access to it has been impaired by the absence of an online catalogue and by the very short opening hours. I reported last year on discussions with the Warburg Institute, and, though they were delayed by the appointment of a new Director of the Warburg, matters have now been almost finalised. Under the new arrangements the new catalogue of the books will appear online in the Warburg’s website and on COPAC, and the library will be run by the staff of the Warburg, allowing it to be open 6 days a week. All Fellows will be entitled to become readers of the Warburg library as a whole, with access to its whole stock of books and its many electronic resources. There will be a difficult transition period over the next year or so, and there will be one down side, inasmuch as the books will not be borrowable. But after the Warburg moves back into its refurbished premises in about two years, we hope that the new system will be up and running, and that the books will enjoy not only better premises and care, but also be available to a much wider range of readers, vastly increasing the availability of numismatic publications to both the academic and wider community.
The academic programme of lectures has, as usual, been a rich and varied diet, ranging from the classical period to the 21st century. It would be invidious to single out any individual papers, but we have of course particularly enjoyed hearing our medallist, Professor Lutz Ilisch, from Tübingen. The recent initiative of having a student lecture was fulfilled with great accomplishment this year with a lecture by Denise Wilding. Applications for this slot continue at a very healthy level, a good sign for the future of the subject.
Richard Ashton, Marcus Phillips and Susan Tyler-Smith continue as editors of the Numismatic Chronicle, which seems to get bigger and better every year. Kris Lockyear and Susan Tyler-Smith edit the Special Publications, and several titles are in the pipeline, although none has actually been published this year.
Every year we award a medal and a number of prizes. This year the Society’s medal has been awarded to Johan van Heesch of the Royal Library of Belgium. The award ceremony will take place in December.
This year’s prizes have been awarded as follows:
The Lhotka Memorial Prize (for the best publication for the ‘elementary student of numismatics’) has had two winners: Dario Calomino, Defacing The Past – Damnation and Desecration in Imperial Rome (2016), and Peter Thonemann, The Hellenistic World: Using Coins as Sources (Guides to the Coinage of the Ancient World; 2016).
No award was made last year for the Parkes Weber Prize (for the best essay by a young author), but we had several applications this year and decided to make two awards, to George Green and Charlotte Mann.
The Shamma Prize for a publication on Islamic numismatics, awarded biennially, was shared between.Hassan al-Akra, L’histoire de Baalbek à l’époque médiévale d’après les monnaies (636-1516), (Beirut/Damascus, Institut français du Proche-Orient, 2016); and Arianna d’Ottone Rambach, La collezione di Vittorio Emanuele III – Monete arabe (Bollettino di Numismatica 35, 2015).
We have been able to make a number of financial grants, as usual, from the funds we hold which have been very generously donated to the Society to promote research, and we are very grateful to the donors. Next year we will add the new Casey and Archibald Funds, which will enable us, as a result of John’s generosity, to make more generous grants than has been hitherto possible.