Winter 2011 Coin Workshops


Over the course of the Winter 2011 term, students from the departments of Classics and Conservation participated in several RTI workshops using coins from the Diniacopoulos Collection.  Acquired by Queen’s in 2001, the coins in this collection have dates ranging from the Hellenistic to Byzantine periods, with the Roman Imperial period especially heavily represented.  The participants learned to work with micro RTI, a technique which had not been attempted in our workshops before.  Having previously worked on a larger scale (imaging headstones at the Cataraqui Cemetery), several techniques had to be adjusted in order to accommodate for the small scale of the subjects.  For example, in place of snooker balls, tiny ball bearings dipped in black nail polish were used, and were then attached to chopsticks in order to be held in place.  While several options were explored for the black coating of the balls (including India Ink), nail polish, due to its shine potential and resilience, appeared to be the most effective!  A powerful Nikon macro lens, the 70-180mm, was also necessary in order to capture the fine details of the coins. The fact that this macro lens was also a zooming lens meant that we could lock the camera in place, establish focus and then easily recompose shots depending on the size and number of coins to be imaged.

The Nikon 70-180mm macro lens

Once these adjustments were made, the sequence of steps for image capture remained relatively the same as that followed for the headstones.  The system became even more streamlined, however, with the inclusion of a remote controlled shutter release, thus making it possible for the entire process to be completed with only two people.  Here are some photos of volunteers learning and applying the methods of image capture, as well as a photo of the camera setup:

Once the images were captured and the RTIs composed, the next step was to identify and date the coins.  Markers such as portraits, letters, numbers and symbols were gleaned from the RTIs and matched to coins in databases found on the internet.  The most helpful web resources used during this step were http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/ and http://www.ancientcoinsforeducation.org/.  These sites provide examples of coins, as well as explain common symbols and abbreviations.

Below is an image of students sorting coins according to size and pre-RTI observations.  The coins were placed into museum saflips, which contain a pocket for the coin itself as well as one for a label describing the coin.  These saflips can be found at:  http://www.vcoins.com/us/kointainer/store/listCategoriesAndProducts.asp?idCategory=10

Look out for some examples of results from these coin workshops soon to come!

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