$2 million gift establishes Newman Money Museum at Sam Fox Arts Center

A major gift from Eric P. and Evelyn E. Newman will create a state-of-the art numismatic museum as part of the Sam Fox Arts Center at Washington University in St. Louis, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton announced today.

Eric P. and Evelyn Newman
Eric P. and Evelyn Newman

The Newman Money Museum will house exhibitions and audiovisual displays on a variety of topics relating to the history of coins and currency, as well as a numismatic library; curator’s office; and workspace for visiting scholars. In addition, researchers will have access to the Newman’s renowned private collection, one of the nation’s strongest in the areas of United States and Colonial America coinage and paper money.

A $2 million gift from the Newmans will underwrite construction of the facility, which will occupy about 3,000 gross-square-feet on the ground floor of the Sam Fox Arts Center’s new Museum Building, one of two structures currently being designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki.

“Eric Newman is among America’s most distinguished numismatic scholars, virtually a legend in his field,” Wrighton said. “Evelyn Newman has, with unmatched energy and innovation, helped pioneer many of our region’s foremost artistic and cultural institutions. Their extraordinary generosity in establishing the Newman Money Museum at Washington University’s Sam Fox Arts Center not only combines these abiding passions; it creates a unique scholarly and educational resource — and point of pride — for the entire St. Louis community.”

Eric Newman — a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (BS 1932) and Washington University (JD 1935) and president of the Harry Edison Foundation — began collecting coins more than eight decades ago, when his grandfather gave him an 1859 one-cent piece. He has written scores of articles and several books on numismatic subjects, including such now-standard references as The 1776 Continental Currency Coinage: Varieties of the Fugio Cent (1952); The Fantastic 1804 Dollar (1962); The Early Paper Money of America (1967, now in its fourth edition); and U.S. Coin Scales and Counterfeit Coin Detectors (2000).

“Every piece of money is at some level a work of art, a daily necessity, an aesthetic experience imbued with cultural, economic, political and fiduciary significance,” Newman said. “Money is and has been history that you hold in your hand, a welcome and widely circulating medium through which governments honor individuals, commemorate events and express patriotic and societal values.

“It is, in short, the place where visual art and design meets a wide variety of academic disciplines and thus is a perfect ‘fit’ for the new art museum at Washington University’s Sam Fox Arts Center,” he said.

Evelyn Newman, who founded the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House and Education Center in Faust Park and many other original concepts for not-for-profit organizations, added that “the Sam Fox Arts Center is like no other institution in the Midwest — or indeed, in the nation. It offers a combination of scholarly research, cultural enlightenment, hands-on studio training and public outreach that is truly unique and inspiring. We are proud to be a part of it.”

Over the years, the Newman family has supported Washington University programs such as professorships, scholarship funds and other projects. In 1995, the family helped underwrite the Eric P. Newman Education Center at Washington University School of Medicine, a state-of-the-art conference and education facility.

The Sam Fox Arts Center is a campus-wide umbrella organization linking three academic units — the School of Architecture, the School of Art, and the Department of Art History and Archaeology in Arts & Sciences — with the University’s nationally recognized Gallery of Art and the Art & Architecture Library through programmatic and curricular initiatives as well as new and shared facilities.

Mark S. Weil, Ph.D., the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Community Collaboration, is director of both the Sam Fox Arts Center and the Gallery of Art. He pointed out that the Newman Money Museum will complement both the Gallery of Art’s strong collection of 19th and 20th century American painting and sculpture and its Wulfing Collection of about 14,000 early Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins.

“This is a tremendous ‘coup’ for Washington University and for St. Louis,” Weil said. “Eric and Evelyn have assembled a collection of amazing breadth and scholarship, truly a national resource. We are indeed fortunate to be able to help ensure that it will remain in St. Louis as a cultural and educational resource for students, teachers, scholars and the general public.”

When completed in 2006, the new Museum Building will form the centerpiece of a five-building complex that will also include a new Maki-designed studio building for the School of Art and three renovated structures, Bixby, Givens and Steinberg halls. Total costs for new construction and renovations are estimated at $56.8 million. In addition to the Newman Money Museum, the Museum Building will house a faculty/student gallery, a rotating exhibitions gallery and an area dedicated to the Gallery of Art’s permanent collection.

In all, the proposed 65,000 gross-square-foot new art museum will contain 12,000 square-feet of display space in addition to state-of-the-art storage facilities; the 13,000-square-foot Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Information Center; classroom and office space for the Department of Art History & Archaeology; and now The Newman Money Museum.