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Financial problems at the ANS


1100 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 293-3390
Fax: (202) 293-3393

       December 17, 1999

       Dear Friends of the Islamic Department,

       As you know the American Numismatic Society is facing an urgent need to reduce operating costs. This will necessarily mean a reduction of personnel, including members of the curatorial department.

       The matter is heartbreaking. Except for the collections themselves, and the library, there is no more important resource that we can offer than the talents of a knowledgeable curatorial staff. In my view, this is nowhere more the case than that of the curatorship of Islamic coins.

       Our collection is venerable. The ANS acquired its first Islamic coin in 1858, the first year of its existence. Since then, it has become one of the world's leading institutions for the study of Islamic coinage. The Society is, today, unique in combining a great Islamic collection, a great numismatic and historical library, and a staff with expertise in the languages, history and culture of the Islamic world. As you know, Islam remains relatively little understood by most Americans, despite the fact that Islamic material and Islam itself has become a matter of growing interest to many hundreds of millions of individuals around the world. I am writing to let you know that I am prepared to make a major effort to find funding to continue, and ultimately endow, the Islamic curatorship, and to ask for your help in getting this done.

       While my special interest is Hellenistic coinages, I have spent long years in the Moslem world (in the Arab Middle East, with many visits to Iran among other locations), have served on the visiting committee to the Department of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and am currently a trustee of several institutions with strong Islamic connections. I believe that the Islamic position at the ANS must be preserved, if at all possible.. I believe that any attempt to raise money for this purpose should be undertaken with certain thoughts in mind:

  • The effort must be begun and carried out on an urgent basis.
  • To finance the curatorship, adequate funding goals must be set. In my view, $100,000 needs to be raised by January 15, 2000, and $500,000 by December 31, 2000.
  • Half of these sums should be on deposit with the ANS by the dates given; the balance can be in pledges that can be made good by no later than the end of 2001. As you know, all donations to the Society are tax-deductible to US persons or corporations.
  • Funds generated through this special effort should be dedicated to the Islamic position only. They will go to no other purpose than that position, its administrative support, and the costs of fundraising for the position.
  • Donors should have a choice, of either giving money for restricted purposes that are consistent with the ANS's own goals, or for general purposes that could pay for the operating costs of the department. Building an endowment for an Islamic Chair - among others - is an important Society goal. If a donor wishes to designate funds for endowment, so that income only would go to current operating costs, they can stipulate this.
  • A donor may also choose to give for the general use of the department in a manner that would allow their contribution to be used for current operating costs.
  • If the Islamic position lapses for any reason, income from endowment, along with unrestricted donations, would be applied to the department's needs, including, in time, funding a qualified part-time staff member to service the needs of the Islamic collection and those who may be interested in it.
  • The Year 2000 goal of $500,000 is to be seen as a beginning and not an end. A campaign must then be begun to raise the balance of the $2 million needed to fully endow the curatorship.

       Of course, any Islamic curatorial position will need to conform to the needs of the Society in its new configuration, and will necessarily require involvement with, in addition to collections management and research, exhibitions, public education and other tasks, as agreed to by the Society's Council and Administration.

       I am willing to dedicate considerable personal effort and time to this initiative. But it is important to me to know that there is, behind it, financial support, and a real willingness by the Islamic Coin committee and others to join me in finding funds within the communities of collectors, professional numismatists and others who should want to see the position continue. In my judgment, the first $100,000 (no less than 50% of which needs to be on deposit at the Society) is critical. If this sum cannot be raised by the 15th of January, then I cannot be optimistic that we can realistically reach our goal and the effort may have to be called off. There is a real urgency to the situation, as you know.

       To facilitate process, I am sending with this a simple form that allows a donor to designate the purpose of their funds. If you believe this should be changed in any please let me know.

       Of course, if you have any other questions about the campaign for the Islamic department, please contact me at the above telephone/fax numbers during the day, or at home, tel. (202) 337-8859/fax (202) 337-2177, e-mail aha95@aol.com.


Arthur Houghton
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