OTD: Bank of Canada Currency Museum opens in Ottawa

On today’s date in 1980, the Bank of Canada Currency Museum (now the Bank of Canada Museum) opened its doors to the public at the bank’s newly expanded head office on 234 Wellington St. in Ottawa.

This July, the museum re-opened its doors after a four-year closure and a “complete re-imagining.”

Aside from containing artifacts from the National Currency Collection, the two museums are “really quite different,” according to Paul Berry, the museum’s chief curator.

“The Bank of Canada Museum is focused upon delivering messages about the economy and the Bank of Canada whereas the Currency Museum looked more at currency and its evolution both within and outside Canada,” said Berry, who added the new museum has “twice the floor space but about one quarter of the artifacts on display.”

Despite fewer artifacts, the redesigned museum and its new focus has allowed the bank to showcase a greater variety of material from the National Currency Collection.

“Stock certificates, payment cards and savings banks help tell the story about production, consumption and one’s personal involvement in the economy; subjects that weren’t formerly addressed,” said Berry. “The new museum is interactive, more flexible with respect to our ability to change displays and information, and much more modern in appearance.”

For more information about the re-imagined Bank of Canada Museum, click here for a story published in CCN shortly after the museum re-opened.

Paul Berry, the museum’s chief curator, at the grand opening of the ‘completely re-imagined’ Bank of Canada Museum this July.

THE MOST COMPLETE COLLECTION OF CANADIAN CURRENCY

“We were first called the Currency Museum because we highlighted the National Currency Collection—an extensive international collection and the most complete collection of Canadian currency in the world. It was, and is, a public collection as well as an effective educational tool. Building a museum to display and interpret it seemed only natural,” said museum writer Graham Iddon in a blog post entitled “Why We are Not the Currency Museum,” published last December. “Why we are no longer the Currency Museum is a more complicated issue.”

Following a magnitude 5.0 earthquake that hit Central Canada in 2010, there was an opportunity to “re‑imagine” the museum that was established when the central bank’s head office was first built in the 1970s. Until a few years before it closed for renovations, the Currency Museum belonged to the bank’s currency department; however, it now belongs to the communications department—a “crucial factor” that changed the museum’s mission.

“Here was an opportunity to develop an extraordinary outreach tool to help educate Canadians about what the Bank does,” writes Iddon, who suggests reading the museum’s mission statement: “To creatively bring the work of the Bank of Canada to Canadians by demystifying the Bank’s key functions and interpreting Canada’s monetary heritage; and to provide access to the National Currency Collection.”

NEW LOCATION

The new Bank of Canada Museum is located beneath the plaza at the corner of Bank Street and Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa. The museum’s new mandate is to provide Canadians with a public space where they are encouraged to learn about the bank’s policies and functions as well as its role in guiding the Canadian economy.

Alongside interactive exhibits, visitors learn about Canada’s monetary history through the carefully selected display of 1,400 artifacts from the National Currency Collection, which holds nearly 130,000 items altogether.

For more information, visit bankofcanadamuseum.ca.

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