The Bank of England Museum reopened this week after a three-month refurbishment, delivered on time and on budget, as the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, was keen to tell us at the reopening reception.
To celebrate, 10 quirky objects and documents have been hauled out of the Bank’s deep vaults and put on show. As well as Sir John Soane’s secret ballot box and a camel saddle bag for carrying gold that *might* have belonged to Lawrence of Arabia you can admire unique bank notes signed by the likes of Nelson Mandela and George Eliot, art from the Bank’s collection, intriguing letters and shiny gold bars of various sizes.
On which, don’t fret, the ‘can you lift a gold bar with one hand’ attraction is still there, as is the charming Wind in the Willows display about Kenneth Graeme’s employment at the Bank. Other exhibits have been updated with new guides and activities, including ever more interactive digital stuff.
Things have changed most noticeably in the wonderful reconstruction of Soane’s Bank Stock Office room. Repeat visitors will notice that the stripy inflation balloon has gone and in its place is a boat-like structure embodying the Bank’s mission to keep the UK’s finances on an even keel with an opportunity to try and set monetary policy and learn about financial crises through history. Also gone are the waxwork figures in period costume showing what working life was like at the Bank around 1793. On asking what had happened to the memorable stuffed cat, the builders gave us a nod and a wink and revealed it’s still in residence for the eagle-eyed.
The Bank of England Museum is open Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm and admission is free. Curiosities from the Vaults: A Bank Miscellany runs until 12 July 2014. Watch out for special weekend opening dates and other events here.
All images courtesy of the Bank of England (except the cat, photographed by Pete Berthoud).
The Bank of England museum was our Museum of the Month back in March 2010. Read more about it.