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Most history museums don’t specifically cover economic topics, but financial systems have always been an important part of society. The Bank of England Museum in London details the 300+ year history of England’s central bank & its role in the country’s economy & trade.
Unsurprisingly, the Bank of England Museum is located near Bank station. It’s also near several hop-on, hop-off bus routes. Entry is free. Note that you’ll have to pass through security to enter the building, but it’s easier than any airport.
The Bank of England Museum (official website) starts off by telling the history of the bank itself, which was founded in 1694. The site of the bank has evolved over the centuries, with several periods of reconstruction and renovations.
This first room is a reconstruction of the 18th-century Stock Office, complete with a domed ceiling.
In addition to telling the history of the Bank of England, complete with original charter documents, it also has kid-friendly interactive exhibits.
The rest of the permanent exhibits of the Bank of England Museum detail the broader history of England’s economy & banking system. One section is the banknote gallery, which shows the evolution of British currency over the years.
This includes also printing plates & techniques, detailing the materials used.
With currency, there’s always counterfeiting.
The financial museum also has a gold bar that you can touch. Unless it’s counterfeit.
For me, the highlight of the Bank of England Museum was a special exhibition in the Rotunda that I hope becomes permanent. This exhibit was titled “Slavery & the Bank”.
This section of the museum detailed how the Bank was responsible for funding the transatlantic slave trade, including associated businesses that profited from it, whether they were in textiles, shipbuilding, or other industries. They even owned plantations.
While acknowledging this horrific past is only the first step toward properly atoning for what the Bank of England was responsible for, it’s good to see that they are at least starting to recognize their role. The permanent exhibits are also being updated to incorporate this information.
The last section of the Bank of England Museum covers the modern bank & economics. While economic topics can get dry when they get in-depth, there are several easy-to-understand presentations that teach visitors an introduction to finance & what the modern bank does. Basic economic literacy is important, and it’s something that’s not always taught in schools.
Finally, there is also a gift shop that sells proofs, coins, and other gifts.
London‘s Bank of England Museum provides a different look into the country’s history, but one that runs throughout everything else. For more nearby history, visit the London Mithraeum & the London Amphitheater.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in London, check out these London hotels.