Our Chief Curator leaves a job well done
By Chris Faulkner
This week, our Chief Curator Paul S. Berry retired from heading up the National Currency Collection (NCC), Canada’s most significant currency collection. Paul has worked tirelessly and with great passion for the last 35 years to maintain and grow the NCC even putting in a few years in the Bank’s Currency Department. We asked Chris Faulkner, Chair of the NCC’s Acquisitions Advisory Committee, to speak about Paul and his career. Dr. Faulkner is a film studies professor and researcher at Carleton University and has known Paul longer than any of us.
I can’t remember when I first met Paul, but it must have been shortly after his arrival in 1984. It seems like yesterday… No, it doesn’t, actually. It was a long time ago, and we both had more hair then! Well, he did anyway. A lot has changed over the years besides our physical appearance.
What with the usual pressures of work and family, I was no more than a very occasional visitor to the National Currency Collection in the ’80s and ’90s when the collection offices were at ground level and the Museum entrance was on Wellington Street. I only got to know Paul better into the new millennium, and especially after he became Chief Curator, when my visits for the purposes of research became more regular.
What Paul was able to accomplish is amazing and represents a terrific legacy. The move from street level to much more expansive quarters (albeit below ground!), the creation of a proper suite of offices, space for an ever growing library (easily the best of its kind in Canada), proper storage vaults for an extraordinary collection of numismatic material (again, easily the best of its kind in Canada), state-of-the-art conservation facilities, a photography studio—all of this was accomplished under Paul’s tutelage and represents an unparalleled resource for research and support for the Bank of Canada Museum. He has been a great steward of the collection and as a result a tremendous asset to the Bank.
Paul laid out a rational acquisitions policy for the numismatic collection and continued to ensure the growth of the library. When he decided to reach out to the numismatic community by forming an Acquisitions Advisory Committee in 2007, I willingly accepted the invitation to sit as its chair because of my respect for Paul and because of my belief in the national—even international—importance of the collection. Paul has been transparent with the committee as far as collection policy and practice are concerned and has always accepted the committee’s two cents’ worth with grace and equanimity.
What has impressed me, both as the Chair of the Acquisitions Advisory Committee and as a frequent research visitor, is not only Paul’s evident administrative capabilities but also his breadth of knowledge about the history of currency and banking. Such knowledge is not easily won. Paul is blessed with an historical sensibility, organizational skills and an attention to detail. These are the prerequisites for a first-rate numismatist. More than once he and I have looked at the same artifact and Paul has been able to see things I haven’t! Furthermore, I don’t think we’ve ever had a dull conversation on a topic of numismatic interest, and we’ve had a lot of conversations over the years.
Now that he’s retiring he won’t get his hair back, but it’s not too late to put all that accumulated knowledge on paper and enlighten us with what he’s learned.
Thank you, Chris. Please join all of us here at the Museum, and at the Bank, in offering Paul the fondest best wishes for this new chapter of his life.
Thanks, Paul, we’ll miss you!
The doors were barely closed following Big Top Farewell event before Chief Curator Paul Berry and his team began emptying display cases that had been sealed shut since 1980. The biggest task involved removing more than 2500 bank notes from the room we knew as Gallery 8.
Another convention of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA) wrapped up in July. This year the convention was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was the first time in over thirty years that the RCNA Convention made a stop there.
Before the museum closed for renovations on 2 July, technicians began to remove the heavier artifacts in late May. First to go was the strong box. Built of ¼” thick welded steel plates, this trunk was used by the Bank of Upper Canada in Toronto between 1821 and 1866.
Most of us know the first part of Alexander Graham Bell’s take on opportunity: “When one door closes, another one opens…” What we often don’t recall is the second half of that quote, where he says: “…but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
The Staff of the Currency Museum was saddened to learn of the passing of artist Alex Colville who died on 16 July at his home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. He was 92. One of Canada’s most celebrated painters, Colville is not as well-known as a sculptor but if you look carefully through your pocket change you might just find an example of his work.
The roots of the Currency Museum go back to 1959 when the then Governor of the Bank of Canada, James Coyne, proposed the idea of establishing a currency collection that would reflect the colourful monetary history of Canada. By the time the go-ahead was given in 1963 by Coyne’s successor, Louis Rasminsky, the collection’s mandate had been expanded to include world monetary history, banking and production artifacts and a numismatic library.