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The E-Sylum (3/5/2017)

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E-Sylum contributor Erik Goldstein is the Senior Curator of Mechanical Arts & Numismatics at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Regarding the passing of Noël Hume, former director of archaeology at Colonial Williamsburg, Erik writes:

When our expanding family left the New York City area for Virginia in 2001, I knew I was bringing myself nearer to an entity I yearned to become a part of – the community of curators, tradesmen, museum professionals, and archaeologists who bring the Williamsburg-Jamestown-Yorktown ”Historic Triangle” to life. Once I joined the team at Colonial Williamsburg, I had the chance to meet and befriend many of the greats in the diverse fields of early American historical studies.

Ivor Noël Hume Shortly thereafter, I was invited to show up at the monthly meeting of the local archaeological club, which then met at a British pub, of course. At the head of a long table populated by pint glasses and dusty archaeologists fresh in from “the field,” sat Ivor Noël Hume (just Noël, to his friends), a celebrity I had hoped to meet since I was in college. Like the big-mouthed putz that I am, I giddily introduced myself, and proceed to tell Noël that he had wrongly identified a very important military object excavated from the yard of Wetherburn’s Tavern in 1965. NOT a good idea at all!

Perhaps the only thing which saved me was the fact that I had a good working knowledge of two areas of early American “material culture” studies that he loved, but wasn’t as well-versed in as he wanted to be; numismatics and the British military. My initial misstep aside, we quickly became good friends when it became apparent the we were both voracious collectors of all sorts of historical stuff. I earned a standing invitation to his house, where we would meet, usually on a Friday afternoon.

Since he had some difficulty in getting around, we only ever met at my house once. Depending on where our ongoing conversation was focused at the moment, I would show up with a coin, a sword, a bottle (empty & old) or even a musket for detailed examination and discussion. In addition to chatting about the antiquities around us, we spent many hours discussing the ethics of our respective professions, and the implications and pitfalls of those who dared to collect what they studied, excavated, or cared for. Never shy with his opinion, he vehemently defended the private collector, seeing relics of mankind’s past as property of mankind, not just those inside the museum and academic worlds. For this, and a whole bevy of other reasons, Noël was one of my heroes, a tremendous influence, a mentor and a friend.

John Kraljevich adds:

I got a little misty eyed. Meeting Noel remains one of the highlights of my life.

Thanks, guys. Sorry for the loss; Noël Hume was one of the greats of the field.

I'm a big proponent of the private collector as well. Museums are great and wonderful things, but they can't be everywhere or collect everything; the private sector nicely complements the public sector, whether all of their employees and boosters understand that or not. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

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