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Expertise in Medals

Medal studies in the UK have traditionally been concentrated in the Department of Coins and Medals of the British Museum, where George Hill worked from 1893 until becoming Director of the Museum in 1931. His monumental Corpus of Italian medals of the Renaissance before Cellini appeared in 1930 and remains the standard reference work for Italian Renaissance medals. From 1953 Joan Martin had responsibility for the medal collection until Mark Jones was appointed as the Museum’s first Curator of Medals in 1974. The position has since been occupied by Luke Syson, now Keeper of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and Philip Attwood, now Keeper of Coins and Medals at the British Museum.


The British Museum’s collection of some 70,000 medals from the Italian Renaissance to the present forms the national collection. The Sculpture Collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum also includes a fine medal collection with examples stretching back to the Renaissance. The Ashmolean, Fitzwilliam and Hunterian Museums also have old medal collections of international importance.


Other national museums in London have medals relating to their subject areas. For example, the National Maritime Museum has medals relating to Britain’s naval history, whilst medals relating to the two World Wars and the subsequent conflicts in which the UK has been engaged are held in the Imperial War Museum.  The National Army Museum has military and regimental medals. The latter are also held by various regimental museums.


Regional museums have collections that generally relate to their areas, some of which are extensive.


Philip Attwood, Keeper of the Department of Coins and Medals, British Museum