My central banking Euro tour

Street sign

Our blogger’s hopeful omen that turned out to be misleading. No money here.

Upon my arrival in Paris, one of the first streets I saw coming out of the metro station was called “Rue de la Monnaie”. I thought it boded well for my quest to see notes and coins on the old continent. I have to admit I developed a certain interest for the subject after translating a few texts for the Museum… Well, seeing numismatic artifacts in Paris proved more difficult than I thought. While the Bank of Canada has its own museum and has been the custodian of the National Currency Collection for more than three decades, I arrived in Paris a year too early to visit the ground-breaking Cité de l’Économie et de la Monnaie that the Banque de France will launch next summer. Honestly, this project looks so exciting that it gives me goose bumps! I’m longing to go back to Europe just for that (ok, and maybe for the food and wine too). Another option would have been to visit the Monnaie de Paris, the French equivalent of our Royal Canadian Mint, but it was closed for renovations. Talk about bad timing! I finally got to see some forms of money (including knives, shells and ancient gold coins) on my last day in Paris. A nice colleague brought to my attention that the Bibliothèque nationale de France owned an impressive collection of coins and medals, some of which was on display a few blocks away from my office. Mission (finally) accomplished!

Large, old building and canal

Closed for renovations. The Monnaie de Paris. (photo: Wikimedia, PHGcom)

After my two weeks at the Banque de France, I travelled for a few more days in Europe and saw some other things worth mentioning. In Brussels, I visited the very educational and entertaining Belgian Comic Strip Center. It was fascinating to see how comic strips hold such an important place in that country’s national identity. Having translated a lot of material for our Voices from the Engravers exhibition, I was totally amazed when I saw a display of Belgian stamps adorned with comic strips characters. That’s a bit different from beavers and hockey!

Clear cylinders with bank notes

Bank note displays at the National Bank of Belgium’s temporary museum.

Also in Brussels is the National Bank of Belgium, which, just like our own central bank, is undergoing some renovations at the moment. However, I could still visit their temporary (and free) museum. I saw many things that reminded me of home there: a bench made of recycled notes, a Yap stone (smaller than ours, though), a huge 500 euro mosaic made of old notes (remember our Penny Wall?) and even a beaver pelt! Most of the panels were trilingual, with French, Dutch and English (I wonder how they managed that translation!). Economic and financial matters, such as monetary policy and payment schemes, were also explained. The section about inflation, illustrating the evolution of prices over time with an actual basket of goods, I particularly liked, but not as much as the machine where you could have your picture taken and printed on fake multi-coloured notes! I also thought the thematic furniture, as well as the information and the artifact presentation, was very ingenious. I saw some brilliant ideas in there!

Round stone

OK, the Bank of Canada’s Yap Stone is way, way bigger than the National Bank of Belgium’s.

Tables with food and information

The National Bank of Belgium used real everyday products to effectively illustrate the effects of inflation over time.

Since I was leaving Europe from the Frankfurt airport, I wanted to pay a visit to the European Central Bank. Unfortunately, it was closed during week-ends. It looked like they had a wonderful souvenir shop, though, and I managed to take a picture of a pretty massive euro sign.

Big bank note

A collage of old bank notes made to look like a giant 500 Euro note.

Fake bank note

Our blogger and her sister featured on fun, phoney bank note from an interactive unit at the National Bank of Belgium Museum.

In order to avoid making the readership too jealous, I’ll spare you the description of some other delicious places I visited, including the Belgian Brewers’ Museum, and the ones dedicated to chocolate, old-fashioned mustard and perfume in Cologne, where, in every case, samples were provided (and, of course, very welcome).

It was truly great to be able to visit such a wide variety of museums and to see what an institution similar to ours had to show to the public, both on the currency and the banking fronts. Back in Canada, I’m extremely happy to share my experience with my colleagues and also with you, dear readers, through this dynamic blog. And guess what, I even get to translate my own posts!