St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank opens new currency exhibit
Visitors to St. Louis will find a revised and expanded free attraction at the city’s branch of the Federal Reserve Bank.
In March 2020, the pandemic forced the bank’s Economy Museum, which opened in 2014, to close. Employees at the bank, rather than sitting idly by waiting to reopen the facility, used the time to expand the facility to 7,000 square feet, with the addition of a 1,400-square-foot space named “The Vault” that is devoted to paper currency.
The new exhibit was in the planning stages when the museum closed, and during that time, many of the exhibits went online for teachers to use in classrooms.
The museum is located in the bank’s 1925-era lobby, where photos are exhibited behind decorative old-style brass cashier gates. Visitors can watch a short movie projected high above them about the seven-state region served by the St. Louis district. It includes different zones with interactive features that are devoted to scarcity and human capital, global trade, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the correlation between education, average pay, and unemployment.
Among the interactive opportunities offered are the chance to lift a 20-pound, almost 10-inch-long gold bar; to design your own paper currency either digitally or on paper by taking a selfie and adding your face and whatever name, value, color, and symbols you want; and to measure your height based on a tower of shredded money. For example, someone 6 feet tall will see they are worth $240,000. A foot shorter and you’re worth only $200,000.
There is also an exhibition of world currency, with Zimbabwe’s $1 trillion note among many unfamiliar colorful and interesting designs, a display on the security features of American paper currency, and some odd and curious money
The museum is one of the few that gives visitors a souvenir when they leave rather than expecting them to buy one. Museum director Tom Shepherd calls it “the world’s hardest puzzle,” a small bag of shredded currency.
It is open Monday to Friday from 9 to 3. Admission is free but proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required. More information is found at stlouisfed.org/economymuseum.