15th International Numismatic Congress in Taormina

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by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Annika Backe

October 1, 2015 – Every six years, the big International Numismatic Congress takes place, under the auspices of the International Numismatic Council. Every six years, hundreds of numismatists from all over the world come together. Every six years, numismatics is the predominant sight in a specific city. This also held true for Taormina as the venue of the 15th International Numismatic Congress, organized by Maria Caccamo Caltabiano, with the assistance of Mariangela Puglisi.

The opening ceremony. Photograph: UK.

The greetings
The impressive theater of the Taormina Palazzo Congressi was filled to capacity, when Carmen Arnold-Biucchi, still President of the International Numismatic Congress (it is tradition that the INC board is being elected prior to the beginning of the Congress) held the welcoming speech, opening the 15th International Numismatic Congress in Taormina. Sicily presented itself in the best light possible. The sun was shining, the faces were friendly, and everything worked somehow, though sometimes not the way it was supposed to, but that only added to the special charm of the Congress. The attendees were happy to experience an atmosphere so relaxed. And that made the perfect starting point for a top-class numismatic family celebration.

The ICOMON Round Table was held in a medieval keep. With the temperature rising inside, the numismatists changed location and moved to the garden. Photograph: UK.

A packed scientific program
Trying to get an overview about who would be presenting his or her findings, when and where, was not an easy thing to do on the first day of the event. The program and its organization could not be blamed for that. The lectures on diverse topics were held at nine locations. Nearly 420 presentations were given. The speakers changed every twenty minutes.
Although ancient times (and Roman coinage, most of all) dominating the field once again, other subject-matters are beginning to become the center of attention.

View inside a lecture hall. Photograph: Björn Schöpe.

The greatest increase in interest can be recorded for the history of numismatics, not least on account of the founding of FINA (= Fontes Inediti Numismaticae Antiquae). This informal collaborative project consists of researchers who publish pre-1800 numismatic correspondences.
Numismatics in the Near and the Far East likewise appear to have won many admirers in the last six years, as can be inferred from the relevant lectures held at Taormina.

The panel of the Round Table “Jobs, careers, professions for the young generation of coin enthusiasts”. Photograph: Hadrian Rambach.

Round Tables on burning questions of numismatic routine
Burning questions of the numismatic daily work were addressed in Round Tables. A major topic was the exchange of coin data on the internet: how to build an international cross-border network, which is free for everybody and makes data accessible in a way that it can easily be transferred in other data networks. This is anything but a trivial question. The complexity of such an issue becomes apparent when we recall the fierce and time-consuming discussions led a couple of years ago, in the pre-digital era, revolving around the question of what to mention and what to skip in the description of a coin reverse.
The image copyrights are another problem. When it comes to databases, they are very important and thus constitute one of the key issues in an era when museums no longer consider themselves mere research institutions but profit centers as well. Numismatists who attempt at preparing a die study nowadays are not so much faced with high travel expenses – much of the material being published online already – but with huge invoices for photographs. It is a good thing that the coin trade makes its photographs accessible for free, and this is something researchers truly appreciate.

Carmen Arnold-Biucchi, still President of the International Numismatic Council, at the table of CoinsWeekly. Photograph: Björn Schöpe.

The ongoing discussion on the Protection of Cultural Heritage has not divided the different numismatic disciplines, on the contrary. There was not a single meeting (at least not among the meetings attended by the author) during which the long-established ties between researchers, dealers and collectors were not stressed. In the joint Round Table of IAPN and INC, entitled “Jobs, careers, professions for the young generation of coin enthusiasts”, this close relationship culminated in the assessment that the best chance for a young researcher to accumulate broad knowledge is to gain experiences in the coin trade.
Substantial improvements, on the other hand, are needed in regards to the contact between the trade and universities. This has led the IAPN, in collaboration with CoinsWeekly, to take the initiative: CoinsWeekly will feature a new platform in the not too-distant future where job opportunities as well as applications can then be found.

Andrew Burnett: the “star” during the presentation of the third RPC volume. He also received his own festschrift. Photograph: UK.

Social events
Anybody considering the scientific presentations the most important element of a congress has surely never attended one. The social events are actually much more important – the coffee breaks, the dinners, not to forget the numerous receptions and all the other dos. Holding a wine glass in their hand, the numismatists come up with plans for future projects. This is where the most fruitful international collaboration can be seen.

The reception in honor of the scholarship holders. Photograph: UK.

There was no shortage of gatherings and receptions. The first evening witnessed the Welcome Cocktail, providing the attendees with the opportunity to break the ice. The hall was packed – it could not have accomodated any more numismatists. The cocktail was followed by a dignified but chilly (as a matter of fact, the evenings can be rather chilly in Sicily) inauguration ceremony in the theater with an elaborate musical program. On the next evening, a reception for the scholarship holders of the German, Austrian and Swiss Numismatic Societies was held.

The picturesque Giardino Pubblico, location of the ANS reception. Photograph: UK.

On Tuesday evening, all 700 numismatists gathered in the picturesque Giardino Pubblico, to celebrate two men who have rendered outstanding services to numismatics. The ANS has published two festschriften: the first honors Basil Demetriadi, while the second was released in commemoration of Richard B. Witschonke. The two weighty volumes was presented to the attending numismatists of which, however, only a fraction was able to watch the presentation. Those attendees who arrived late had to take a seat in the far back where it was virtually impossible to see or hear anything. (And this is why we only show you an image of picturesque Giardino Pubblico at this point.)

Naxos: not many spectacular sites to see, but the genius loci still. Photograph: UK.

Excursions were scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, to Catania or Naxos. Then there was only Thursday left.

Closing ceremony, in the presence of the newly appointed President of the International Numismatic Council. Photograph: UK.

The Congress officially ended with the closing ceremony on late afternoon. It was left to the newly appointed INC President, Michael Alram / Vienna, to give the closing farewell speech during which he again stressed the solidarity between researchers, coin dealers and coin collectors.

German researchers, coin collectors and coin dealers, sharing a table during the social dinner: Dr Bernhard Weisser / Berlin (at the far left), Dr Helmut Schubert / Frankfurt with his wife (at the far right), and the members of the Bremer Numismatischer Mittagstisch (center). Photograph: UK.

This was no empty rhetoric. During the entire Congress, this togetherness could be felt and experienced. It is a pity, however, that only relatively few collectors have decided to attend the event. Yet those who had will certainly come again the next time for there is no better place to watch the great authorities in numismatics ‘in action’.

Women power in numismatics – from left to right: Maria Caccamo Caltabiano, Congress organizer, Ursula Kampmann and Cécile Morrisson, Grande Dame of Byzantine numismatics. Photograph: Björn Schöpe.

We, CoinsWeekly, were happy to welcome so many colleagues at our table who came to tell us that they, too, are reading CoinsWeekly. We have taken so many pictures of all our prominent readers that we cannot publish them all. And so we have decided, also accomodating the image requests of many colleagues, to create a dropbox comprising photographs from the Congress in Taormina. You are welcome to download the images until October 15, 2015, but please make sure to give photo credits to MünzenWoche / CoinsWeekly.

Please find the dropbox with many pictures here. You may download the images until October 15, 2015.

More information about the International Numismatic Council is available here.

If you like Twitter then we have two feeds for your comprising loads of images. Firstly, the official feed, and secondly, the feed of Andrew McCabe.

You may place an order for the Survey of Numismatic Research containing the latest research in numismatics, published on the occasion of the Congress, here.

The next Congress is slated for 2021. It will take place in Warsaw, and Alexander Bursche is already issuing invitations. For watching the promotion movie on YouTube please click here.