Last November the Historical Society of Pennsylvania auctioned off part of William Spohn Baker’s extensive collections of George Washington items. 1,102 medals relating to George Washington were sold in individual lots at a Baltimore auction. They fetched about $2.2 million for the cash-strapped historical society.
Will the Freedom Box be next? The legendary gold “Freedom Box” was given by the citizens of New York in 1735 to Andrew Hamilton. Hamilton, a Philadelphia Lawyer, defended the New York City newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger. Students of freedom of the press know this story. Zenger was under attack by the king’s New York colonial governor. He accused Zenger of libel for statements made in his newspaper. No New York lawyers would defend him. Hamilton rode to the rescue. Hamilton cleared Zenger of libel charges. His arguments established a basis for America’s concept of libel and freedom of the press. The gold box was presented by grateful New York officials and citizens. It is now part of the Historical Society’s collection and according to reports is being shopped around.
Thoughts on Sale
Michael Dabrishus, trustee and past president of the Manuscript Society shares thoughts on the recent sale of the Washington medals. “I was aware that the Historical Society of Pennsylvania had serious funding issues, as this article points out. Certainly, it’s not the first time that an institution has sold parts of its collection to survive—nor will it be the last.
Digitization enables institutions to scan valuable historical materials, make them available online, and then place the original items in secure storage where they’re rarely called upon for use. Maybe for an exhibit. Maybe to pull out to to impress someone. But no longer for research as the online surrogates satisfy most needs. I can see a time when more and more institutions, in dire need of financial resources, opt to deaccession manuscripts in order to stay afloat or for some perceived better purpose. And deep-pocketed collectors or well-endowed institutions will be the first in line to pick up the gems.”
The for entire story: http://pge.libercus.net//.pf/showstory/202002160168/3