Friday, September 7, 2007

Gallery Mint Museum in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Gallery Mint Museum Foundation
POB 101
Eureka Springs, AR 72632

You are standing in the sun-lit atrium of a newly constructed building set in a pine forest in northwestern Arkansas. In front of you, an immense, two-story waterwheel turns slowly to the sound of gushing water. Attached to the giant wooden wheel are various shafts, gears, pulleys, levers and other mechanical devices, all moving in their own syncopated rhythm. These moving parts in turn drive other machines: big bellows puff air into a blast furnace; a rolling mill squeezes metal into thinner and thinner strips; a drop-press hammer is cranked back into position. You hear the heavy clang of a sledge hammer slamming down on hand-held steel die. In the background, a tour group chats excitedly among themselves. The air smells like wood fire and melted metal. A buzz of energy fills the place. Welcome to the Gallery Mint Museum.

As you tear your eyes off the mesmerizing mechanical motion of the turning water-wheel, you see other galleries and hallways opening invitingly beyond. Through one window you glimpse a museum conservator in a state-of-the-art laboratory, working to {restore an old screw press}. Other technicians are cataloging and researching the Museum's collection. You pass a large library full of numismatic reference works relating to minting technology; at its tables several researchers are busy gathering information from out-of-print books and manuals.

Once inside the main exhibition area, you stroll through 6,000-square feet of exhibits, galleries and living-history worksites, where historic minting methods are being re-enacted. You note that permanent exhibits are devoted to each of the major minting technologies, including hand-hammered minting (Greek, Roman and Medieval), Chinese coin casting, rolling mill coinage and screw press and steam press technology. You see that each of the historic United States minting facilities is represented by an exhibit devoted just to it. The role of the engraver, the private minter and many other aspects of the numismatic arts are also presented with attractive, interactive displays. Two smaller galleries contain traveling exhibits from other museums and artists.

In another section of the building, you see a few classrooms and activity centers where accredited seminars and classes in engraving and minting technology are being taught. One large, multi-purpose area serves as a conference room and public rental space, a place for outside groups to hold meetings or social events.

There are other areas of the museum building where the casual visitor is not allowed. But one can be assured that the collection storage, vaults, workrooms, museum offices and other behind-the-scenes areas are also carefully laid out and planned in accordance with professional museum standards.

Before you finally leave the Museum, stop by the Gift Shop and see the amazing variety of gifts and goods that relate to money and minting. There are puzzles, games, artwork, and many other money related items. There are books, books and more books. And of course, there is plenty of coinage available for purchase as well: modern-day proof and mint sets from countries all over the world; reproduction coinage from the Gallery Mint; bullion coins, Biblical coins for the tourists.

This then is the vision of the Gallery Mint Museum. A world-class research facility with a comparative collection, a complete library and state-of-the-art laboratory. One with strong, on-going educational and outreach programs, including living-history demonstrations of minting technology, seminars, and classes in engraving and minting technology. One that is active in publishing books about minting. One that abides by the guidelines of ethics and accreditation that have been established by the American Association of Museums (AAM).

This vision can be encapsulated in a simple mission statement: The Gallery Mint Museum is devoted to the preservation and advancement of the numismatic art forms and technologies.

Preservation in the sense that we will keep and preserve for future generations the physical tools and machinery of minting; Advancement in the sense that we will become a center of ongoing research and discovery of the numismatic arts.

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