Dr Maria Vrij

Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Coin Curator, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Contact details

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Maria Vrij is curator of the coin collection at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which comprises over 16,000 objects, most of which are Byzantine, but also includes around 5,000 Roman coins. In this role she facilitates academic research and teaching (undergraduate, postgraduate, and schools outreach) with the collection.

Maria’s research interests mainly concern the coinage of the Byzantine Empire from the seventh to ninth centuries. She is also particularly concerned with the methodological questions of who determined what images appeared on coins and misuse of die studies.


  • 2017  PhD – The Numismatic Iconography of the Period of Iconomachy (610-867) – University of Birmingham
  • 2011 – MA, distinction – Byzantine Studies – University of Birmingham
  • 2010 – BA, first class – East Mediterranean History – University of Birmingham


Maria developed an interest in the Byzantine world during her undergraduate course at Birmingham, and an interest in numismatics during her MA. While undertaking her AHRC-funded PhD on the numismatic iconography of the period of iconomachy, she was involved as a student volunteer in the production of the exhibition Faith and Fortune: Visualising the Divine on Byzantine and Early Islamic Coinage. She also helped to catalogue much of the Barber’s holdings for the period 685-867 during this time.

She became interim curator of the coin collection at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in September 2015, and was made permanent curator in December 2016. In this post she has overseen two exhibitions: Buried Treasures: Uncovering Hoards, which looked at how coin hoards inform our understanding of history and ran from May 2016-February 2017; and Excavating Empire: Gold, Silver and Bronze in Byzantium, which has been open since March 2017 and explores Byzantine history through its coins, and was linked to the 50th anniversary Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies. The second exhibition was produced with the assistance of four postgraduate volunteers.


Maria does not directly teach any undergraduate modules herself, but is happy to facilitate or teach individual classes from other modules. Historically these have included taught classes from the modules such as ‘Late antiquity’, ‘Barbarians and the transformation of the Roman world’ and ‘History in theory and practice’; and supervised classes from modules such as ‘Forging the Christian Holy Land’ and ‘Republican Rome’.

At postgraduate level Maria teaches the numismatics section of the methodologies course for Byzantine Studies MA and MRes students.

She also teaches outreach sessions for visiting groups of school children.


Aside from her PhD research into numismatic production and iconography of the seventh to ninth centuries in Byzantium, Maria has been involved in the project All That Glitters… The Byzantine Solidus 306-1092. This project applied the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) method of metallurgic testing to Byzantine gold coins along with colleagues from the University of Birmingham’s chemistry department, the University of Leeds, Birkbeck College London, the British Museum and Bruker Industries Ltd. Publications from this project are forthcoming.

Other activities

  • Member of the Royal Numismatic Society.



  • Museums policy and practice
  • Outreach to both schools and the general public
  • Teaching history beyond textbooks