Why have a Museum of Finance? (Lessons for Museums of Finance in India..)

A nice piece (old piece in 2012) by Prof Richard Sylla of NYU in the Financial History publication released by Museum of American Finance.

He narrates several examples from financial history to show why a Museum of Finance is really important. These several examples show the importance and power of finance. Apart from this, these museums also shows importance of financial education which is poor amidst most people. A museum with right kind of communication technologies helps in many ways where dozens of government programs just fail.

In India, have seen three Finance Museums. The RBI Museum in Mumbai, the RBI Archives Museum in Pune and Corporation Bank Museum in Udupi. With RBI it is expected but to see Corporation bank having such a useful museum is quite surprising. It has amazing anecdotes which even likes RBI does not have in its resources. The unseen ones there is SBI Museum in Calcutta and former State Bank of Travancore which opened one just before it got merged with SBI.

So five museums of finance are there in India as per my limited knowledge and there could be few more. Five alone is an impressive number.

The problem with these Museums is that they do not communicate much with the outside world. They take their sole purpose as one of display and nothing else.

However, in museums like Museum of American Finance under whose publication Prof Sylla writes the idea is to reach across people:

Using artifacts from financial history and exhibits based on them to increase the public’s understanding of the power of finance is just one aspect of the Museum’s mission. Financial education broadly construed is just as important. The Museum does that for adults with its evening lecture series featuring prominent speakers from the financial and academic worlds.

Its “Lunch and Learn” midday events give authors of recent books on finance and financial history an opportunity to explain their work. The Museum Finance Academy uses the Museum’s own and Wall Street’s resources to educate high school students about the power of finance and to increase their personal financial literacy.

In 1987, in the wake of the stock market crash of October 19 that year, Wall Street and the US financial system were under a cloud. Some feared it was 1929 all over again and expected a depression to follow. In those dark days, stockbroker John Herzog, knowing of the power of finance, decided to dedicate his fine collection of historical artifacts, documents and financial instruments to teaching others about it.

It was a splendid vision, one that resulted in the Museum of American Finance. Thanks to John Herzog’s vision, the power of finance is more appreciated
now, a quarter century later, than it was then. But much remains to be done  make more people aware of it. As it looks back, the Museum looks forward to meeting this challenge.

We need something similar going in India too. If not from the Museums run by the banks, atleast ones run by the Indian central bank should clearly communicate more. One wouldn’t be surprised to know that people working in Mumbai’s financial sector would not have even heard of the RBI Museum, leave alone seeing it.

There should be a lecture series, research paper series etc by people interested in various aspects of Indian financial history. The idea should be to build an ecosystem of research fellows, museum archives and information sharing.

2 Responses to “Why have a Museum of Finance? (Lessons for Museums of Finance in India..)”

  1. Gaurav Tiwari Says:

    RBI Chennai too has a Museum

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