Memories of 8 years of ANS service on the 20th Anniversary
September 29, 2008
It was 20 years ago September 30th that I left the employ of the American Numismatic Society. How do I remember that? Well, let me tell you a story...
My main responsibility during eight years of full time employment at the ANS was the operation, maintaince and data entry input for the Prime Computer System Collection Management and Accession programs.
This meant loading the data into a brand new system, supplied and fully financed during those eight years by Harry W. Bass, Jr. I was his boy. He said jump, I said how high, where and how often.
After loading in the accession book records starting in 1858, those numbers formed the basis for the numbers on the individual coin records. Then there were 35 or so fields of information which could be filled in. In some cases, coins got basic stuff, 10 or so fields, in other cases items got 25 or more fields. Each week I rotated amongst the deparments. One week Roman, next Islamic, Modern, Far Eastern, Greek...
In weekly counts, I would often beat my 300 minimum count by 50-100, and some weeks 200 or more. In total after eight years I was responsible for 310,000 entries out of the then 350,000 in the system.
It was a great place to learn numismatics (I first visited in 1973, and joined in 1978).
However I certainly learned some negative life lessions; amongst them were class structure (having an advanced degree over those who just had a BA), bigotry, favoritism and enabeling. (If you want to read more, check out my participation transcript in the ANS Oral History Project.)
During my time there, as Sundays and Mondays were the days off, I took a part time job at St. Patricks Cathedral. It was eventually to the Cathedral I would go full time after the hospitalization of the chief usher, and a month later the murder of fellow usher John Winters. Yes, even after eight years of service and 310,000 plus entries into the database, I was able to leave the museum for the church (at just a slightly higher pay rate) without even a counter-offer.
I still think it is amazingly sad that the Holy Roman Catholic Church could pay better than a internationally recognized museum.
However, my parting gift was quite a surprize, a silver members medal, with a personalized edge engraving: George Cuhaj from the ANS staff 9-30-88. That medal is special to me as it has missed the melting pot twice, and perhaps someday the institution can return to prominence.
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