AT A time when art and historical collections housed in museums are struggling to attract visitors, an online initiative attempts to take museums to the masses right in the comfort of their homes.
AT A time when art and historical collections housed in museums are struggling to attract visitors, an online initiative attempts to take museums to the masses right in the comfort of their homes. With a collection of almost 26,000 objects, Mintage World provides a single point of access for information about India’s vast collection of coins (numismatics), stamps (philately) and paper currency (notaphily). The website, which went live in April, claims to be India’s first online museum.
Other traditional museums in the country, too, are waking upto the potential of going online. Keeping pace with the demands of modern visitors, they are embracing technology and digitisation—some even have plans to digitise their entire collection for online viewing. Kolkata’s Indian Museum, for instance, recently started displaying its Buddhist art collection online as part of a tie-up with Google Cultural Institute, an initiative that helps preserve and promote culture online. It eventually aims to put all its galleries and collections for online viewing. Hyderabad’s Salarjung Museum, too, has partnered with Google’s Art Project, an online platform through which the public can access high-resolution images of artworks housed in the initiative’s partner museums.
Online museums have many advantages over traditional ones, says Mintage World founder Sushilkumar Agrawal, who is also the chairman and managing director of Mumbai-based entertainment enterprise Ultra Group. “One of the major advantages is that one can visit it as per their convenience from the comfort of their home, office or even while travelling. The items can also be observed very minutely with the ‘zoom-in’ option, something you can’t do in traditional museums. Mintage World is the only online museum in the world where one can get authentic information about Indian coins, stamps and notes,” says Agrawal, an avid collector of coins and other items of historical importance himself. “As an enthusiast, I couldn’t find a single platform where collectors could interact and share their experiences and that was the trigger for starting Mintage World.”
All objects on Mintage World have been sourced from private collectors, public sources and archives. From currency spread across ancient and medieval times to coins belonging to different dynasties and rulers, there is a wide range available on the website, which went live with 21,234 coins, 3,537 stamps and 1,156 currency notes. It’s no surprise then that the process to digitise the collection took 35 technical experts and over one-and-a-half years. “The digitisation process, which is ongoing, has been quite long and cumbersome, as we had to make sure that it’s done with the best technical skills available. We have also ensured that the images and information uploaded are easy to navigate and in a user-friendly format, so that the authenticity is well-depicted,” says Agrawal. Experts from the numismatics, philately and notaphily fields are members of the website’s advisory board and look after its day-to-day updation and operations.
The three sections of the website—Coins, Notes and Stamps—have distinct categories and sub-categories. The Coins section, for instance, is divided into ‘ancient’, ‘medieval’, ‘colonial’ and ‘modern’ periods. The Notes section has categories like ‘early bank notes’, ‘British India’, ‘princely state’ and ‘republic’. Stamps are divided into ‘British India: Convention state’, ‘British India’ and ‘independent India’. The information about notes includes signatory details, motif and denomination descriptions, date of issue, type of note, etc. Stamp enthusiasts can access data such as face value of the stamp, printing process, perforation, etc. Similarly, coins come with particulars like inscription details, weight, metal used, etc.
While visitors can’t buy anything from the collection as yet, they can instead purchase books on coins and other subjects, as well as accessories such as bank note albums, coin wallets and folders. The website’s ‘My Collection’ section also allows visitors to create their own collection by uploading images of their coins, stamps and currency notes.
Mintage World also plans to reach out to a more global audience in the future, allowing Indians from other parts of the world to upload currencies and stamps as well, says Agrawal. “Going ahead, we plan to launch an interactive Mintage World club and also extend the museum as an e-commerce platform to cater to visitors globally,” he says.
Culture is now just a click away.
Some of the world’s most famous coin, currency & stamp museums
Numismatic Museum of Athens, Athens, Greece
Housing more than six lakh items, Numismatic Museum of Athens is considered one of the most important of its kinds across the globe. Apart from coins, the museum also houses other exhibits like medals, dies, stamps, etc. There’s also a library with 12,000 books related to coins.
AS Popov Central Museum of Communications, St Petersburg, Russia
Founded in 1872, AS Popov Central Museum of Communications houses over eight million items. Apart from books and archival documents related to the history of post, telegraph, telephone and radio, the museum is also home to a vast collection of stamps and postal stationery.
Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History, Massachusetts, US
Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History contains over two million philatelic items. The inventory is made up of collections from Philadelphia National Philatelic Museum and collections donated or loaned by other collectors.
Singapore Philatelic Museum, Singapore
Opened in August 1995, Singapore Philatelic Museum primarily houses a range of stamps and archival philatelic material of Singapore from the 1830s to the present day. But one of its most interesting exhibits is the Universal Postal Union Collection, which comprises stamps from more than 200 member countries of the Universal Postal Union, a specialised agency of the United Nations.
Banknote Museum, Corfu, Greece
Banknote Museum has an extensive collection of around 2,000 items that showcase Greek currency from 1822 till now. The museum also includes the very first treasury bonds issued by the newly-liberated Greek State in 1822. Other notable items include the first notes issued by Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first governor of Greece, and a 100-billion drachma note issued in 1944.