By Jesse Robitaille
Despite having only a quarter of the artifacts compared to the former Currency Museum, the newly redesigned Bank of Canada Museum offers a complete story about Canada’s economy and everyone’s role within it.
The new museum and its reimagined focus allows the bank to showcase a greater variety of material from the National Currency Collection, said Paul Berry, the museum’s chief curator.
“It is important to set the context for visitors so that they can understand how and where they fit into Canada’s economy,” said Berry, who added the new museum is focused on delivering messages about the economy (whereas the former museum focused on currency and its evolution around the world).
Its interactive approach blends 1,400 carefully selected artifacts alongside interactive exhibits, games and other displays to teach visitors about the economy’s “immensity and intricacy.” Along the way, visitors learn about their role in the system and are given an opportunity to “grasp the multi-faceted role played by the Bank of Canada.”
Berry said among his favourite new pieces on display is a 1914 Keirstead and Mersereau Fox and Fur Company of Canada share certificate, which he purchased for the National Currency Collection in 2015.
“Prior to purchasing it, I had not heard about the North American craze for fox furs during the early 20th century. Canada was a world leader in the black and silver fox husbandry industry,” he said, adding shares were worth $10 each.
Fox breeding farms were located in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, and breeding pairs, which could cost upwards of several thousand dollars, were sent from Canada to other countries around the world.
Another subject left unexplored by the former Currency Museum was payment cards, of which Canadians are among the world’s most frequent users, Barry said.
“They are not money per se, but they are heavily used by Canadians to procure goods and services,” he added. “Like cash or cheques, they are a link between the individual and the economy. Given their importance in daily transactions and given the ever-increasing reliance of Canadians upon electronic means of payment, it is appropriate that payment cards be displayed.”
Berry said there are also many “unique and historic items” on display at the new museum that would “make a numismatist salivate,” such as a 1911 silver dollar; French regime card money; a Prince Edward Island holey dollar; and a 1936 10-cent “dot” coin.
“To that, we have added hundreds of items never before put on display including such Canadian classics as the 1862 B.C. $20 gold pattern, an 1858 double specimen set of Canadian coins in their original case, and the ‘holy grail’ of Canadian coins, a specimen 1936 dot cent,” he said, adding the latter example was “eagerly sought after” by collectors who came of age in the 1950s and ’60s, “but never found.”
“Thanks to a recent donation we can now display not only the dot cent but the entire 1936 specimen set – the only surviving example – including all three denominations of dot coinage.”
SO FAR, SO GOOD
Berry said the response from the public since the museum’s July 1 opening has been positive.
“People are excited about the interactive displays and the artifacts, which set the stage, as it were, for the story line by providing historical context. In the few short days that we have been opened, we have received over 10,000 visitors,” he said, adding that’s about 25 per cent of the annual total of the former Currency Museum.
A total of 2,823 people attended the museum on Canada Day.
“Of course, some people have expressed an interest in seeing more artifacts. They are nostalgic for the great variety and depth of material formerly on display,” said Berry. “As we move forward, we hope that frequent changes of the displays and updates to our website will help serve to meet their requests.”
Berry said museum staff is “putting the finishing touches” on its current contents, adding it’s “a bit too early” to discuss details about future updates.
“As the celebrations of Canada 150 wind down and their impact on Ottawa tourism declines, we will be looking to get a better sense of a steady state picture of our new museum,” he said, adding the museum will look at average number of visitors and what exhibits are most popular.
“By summer 2018, we will be in a better position to plan for future changes. Having said that, plans are in the works now for an enhanced video/digital experience in the gallery just before you enter the museum. But I don’t want to spoil the surprise,” he said, adding the bank invites readers to “pay us a visit again in 2018 and beyond to experience the museum’s evolution.”
The Bank of Canada Museum’s summer hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. each day of the week, and admission is free. It has twice the floor space of the former Currency Museum and houses 1,400 artifacts from the National Currency Collection. The artifacts appear alongside the interactive exhibits, games and other displays exploring the economy and everyone’s role within it. The new entrance is located at the corner of Bank Street and Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa.
For more information, visit bankofcanadamuseum.ca.