At last, I’m able to bring you a post from Cleveland! The Money Museum, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, is primarily aimed at children, but as it was basically deserted on the day I visited, I was able to take advantage of all the interactive games. The museum is free, but because it’s at the Federal Reserve, you have to pass through a security screening to enter (not a problem for me, but I get the impression that some Americans carry around a veritable pocket arsenal, so leave the guns at home!). Once inside the rather magnificent building, someone will come give you a brief introduction to the collection, and then you’re left on your own to wander. The museum is spread over two floors in a corner of the bank building, and aims to educate visitors on the history of currency and how money is made. To that effect, they offer a number of computer games and other activities, such as a game where you have to try to pick the counterfeit bills from the real ones (with the help of an ultraviolet light), and one where you have to match the scrip to the company that produced it.
There was also a “money tree” filled with squirrels to teach visitors about what helps make an object a good form of currency. There were posters spread throughout the exhibits, but the text on them was rather large and sparse, to reflect the museum’s primary aim of educating schoolchildren. I was still able to pick up a few interesting facts about the history of the American banking system though.
Upstairs, there was the probably inevitable dollar bill you could stick your head through for a photograph, but this wasn’t the coolest thing to do with a bill here. For, when I ventured into the back room, I discovered I could design my own million dollar bill, with my picture on it! I think I got just the right look of haughty disdain to be money-worthy (have a look below). There was also a crayon rubbing station where you can design a slightly shoddy bill – mine had Vincent Van Gogh in the centre, and a squirrel off to one side, because, well, why not? The other neat features were the gun holds built into the glass, in case of robberies, and and some of the other random security features in place.
Although the permanent collection may have been fairly child-centric, the museum also hosts temporary exhibits, which are aimed at an adult audience, and the current one was on the history of war bonds. It was mainly about WWII, and included uniform jackets and photographs, which was nice as there weren’t many artefacts in the other section. It also had some great propaganda posters; obviously, Norman Rockwell was well-represented, but there were some lesser known artists as well, including some great ones of women (that actually weren’t pin-ups, for a change), and others depicting African Americans in wartime. I quite enjoyed this exhibit, and was glad to learn more about how America financed WWII.
The staff I encountered where all very nice, and offered free souvenirs – not only did a get a printout of my “bill,” but I was also offered a bag of shredded money (valueless, but cool), and a pencil, in exchange for filling out a brief survey. It doesn’t take very long to look through, but it’s a nice place to visit if you find yourself in downtown Cleveland on a weekday between 10 and 2. And whilst you’re downtown during the day, consider stopping by Vincenza’s for a delicious slice of NY-style pizza (thin crust is highly elusive in Ohio, even though it’s really the only type of pizza I like – thick, bready, Midwestern style seems to dominate here). 3/5 for the Money Museum.