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Philip Grierson Medal

Philip Grierson Medal

Avril Vaughan, Philip Grierson Medal, copper, 1990, obverse and reverse. Dumbarton Oaks Archives, AR.OB.Misc.001.

James N. Carder

This year’s Dumbarton Oaks Summer Program in Coins and Seals recently concluded on August 2nd, and one of its invited faculty members, Eurydice Georganteli, took time out to be interviewed for the Dumbarton Oaks Oral History Project. In her interview, Vicky (as she is known at Dumbarton Oaks) fondly reminisced about being mentored by Philip Grierson, the former Advisor for Byzantine Numismatics at Dumbarton Oaks (1955–1997) and the author of catalogues of the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine coin collection. Remembering her summer fellowship of 1998, she recalled:

This was the first time in my entire life as a student and as a graduate student that I had the chance to work in a coin room on the opposite side of a great guy. He was in his eighties, Philip. He was just opening drawers for me, making these precious coins available, answering every question I had, and simply helping me to acquire a basis of work and an ethos which still follow me…. So, there I was with the best possible reflection of Byzantine society next to a guy who was very eager to be my mentor and my tutor. The reason I’m here today and I teach at the summer school is because of him. I think it was the best summer of my life.

The Dumbarton Oaks Archives has in its collection a copper medal honoring Philip Grierson (1910–2006). The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge commissioned the medal and presented it to Grierson at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, on November 1, 1990, on the occasion of Grierson’s eightieth birthday (November 15th).  Designed by Avril Vaughan, the medal has Philip Grierson’s thoughtful face on the obverse and representations of Byzantine coins, coin books, and a view of the Gate of Honour of Gonville and Caius College and the inscription “Philip Grierson 1990” on the reverse.

In her interview, Vicky recalled that she once asked Philip Grierson:

“Philip, what is your secret of why you write so beautifully and I don’t fall asleep when I read your books? Is it because you like people?” He told me, “Well, observe me. I go to movies,” – and he had a collection of two thousand movies in his library. He said, “I am a member of several book clubs, I love theater, and I love music.” So – this was a kind of Renaissance man.

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