Interview: Dr Eleanor Ghey, Curator: Iron Age and Roman Coin Hoards at the British Museum

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11 October 2019
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We spoke to Dr Eleanor Ghey, Curator: Iron Age and Roman Coin Hoards at the British Museum’s Department of Coins and Medals, and asked her about her career, her involvement in numismatics, and how coin discoveries continue to challenge our perception of the past

How did you become involved in numismatics?

My background is in archaeology but I first became interested in coins while working for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. I joined the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum in 2007, where my first job was to create the database records for the collections of Iron Age, Roman Republican and earlier Roman Imperial series. This was a great opportunity to familiarise myself with the collection. 

What led you to the field of coin hoards?

I started working on Treasure cases while covering for the Curator of Iron Age and Roman Coins, as this is a statutory responsibility of British Museum curators. I was able to continue working on coin hoards part time alongside my documentation role from 2010.

The Department deals with a huge volume of Iron Age and Roman hoards and it is sometimes difficult to find the time to stand back and take stock. An AHRC funded research project run by the British Museum and University of Leicester from 2013 to 2016 made it possible for me to do this. I have now returned to a curatorial role full time. 

What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?

It is always exciting to deal with new discoveries but I think the most rewarding aspect of my job is being able to communicate our understanding of the past to the public and capture their imagination. We are currently touring some fascinating hoards from the British Museum and Salisbury Museum collections and I love being able to tell their stories at each new venue.

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What would you say is the most exciting coin hoard discovery you have seen?

Working on the Beau Street hoard from Bath is probably one of the highlights of my career so far. To be able to see separately sorted money bags and isolate these for study really brought us closer to the mind of the individual(s) who deposited it. The archaeological excavation on which it was found also shed some light on that area of the town in the Roman period.

Read the full interview in Issue 6 of Coin Collector magazine – available in print and digital editions. Find out more…

THE BRITISH MUSEUM, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, britishmuseum.org

Images: Coins from the Beau Street Hoard, which Eleanor worked on, and the display at The Roman Bath at Abbey Church Yard, Bath, BA1 1LZ. Find out more about the Roman Baths and the hoard at: www.romanbaths.co.uk