What the heck is that thing?
Anybody wandering past the Bank of Canada’s Ottawa head office cannot be blamed for staring at the curious structure looming over Bank Street and wondering “What the heck is that thing?”
In an Ottawa Sun article from July 2015, reporter Keaton Robbins asked a similar question of a number of passers by on Bank Street. Apparently only one of them answered correctly. Some people thought it was a parking garage, others a monument, public art or a train station. A popular guess was a skateboard park but the most common response was some variant of “I have absolutely no idea.”
It seems a pretty strange building but now it has a solid roof, glass walls and doors. Doors? Ah, there’s your clue. It’s no skateboard park—it’s the entrance pyramid for the Bank of Canada Museum.
For all of us at the Museum, that entrance is a very big deal. For 30 years, the Currency Museum lived quietly in the back of the Bank’s original head office building. Problem was, the Museum was invisible from the street. The Museum’s current Director admits that the first time he found the Currency Museum it was by complete accident. In fact, one of the ways the Museum was typically described in those days was as a “hidden gem.”
Well, we’re done hiding. The Museum team is very pleased to have a big, bright street-level entrance that will make the Museum a prominent feature of one of Canada’s most popular tourist districts. Anybody “stumbling upon” the Bank of Canada Museum will have to stumble into an enormous wall of glass and steel—so please, do take care.
The Museum pyramid has another purpose, to act as a skylight for the warm and welcoming reception area beneath it. With the sunlit stairs and the broad view of the skyline provided by the glass portico, there will be little sense of being below ground. In terms of design, we are in good company with other museum renovations such as that of Royal Ontario Museum’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal and the Louvre Pyramid.
The Bank of Canada Plaza will continue to be a public gathering space and extension of the Sparks Street Mall. With the terraced seating on the green roof of the Museum pyramid, the plaza will be a better place than ever to share lunch with colleagues or enjoy the sunshine.
So when we re-open in 2017, we’ll invite you to have your lunch on the Bank of Canada Museum—literally.
The Museum Blog
Teaching art with currency
From design to final product, bank notes and coins can be used to explore and teach art, media and process.
New Acquisitions—2022 Edition
It’s a new year—the perfect time to look back at some notable artifacts the Museum added to the National Currency collection from 2022. Each object has a unique story to tell about Canada’s monetary and economic history.
Money: it’s a question of trust
The dollars and cents we use wouldn’t be worth anything to anybody if we didn’t have confidence in it. No matter if it’s gold or digits on a hard drive, public trust is the secret ingredient in a successful currency.
The day Winnipeg was invaded
People on the street were randomly stopped and searched, and some were even arrested and imprisoned in an internment camp. Even German marks replaced Canadian currency in circulation—in the form of If Day propaganda notes.
The imagery on the Bank of Canada’s 1935 note series depicts the country’s rich industrial history.
Army bills: Funding the War of 1812
In 1812, British North America had no banks and little currency. With the prospect of war drying up supplies of coins, the government of Lower Canada decided to issue legal tender notes called “army bills” to pay for troops and supplies.
Between tradition and technology
What was proposed was a complete about-face from the philosophy behind recent security printing. If photocopiers could easily deal with the colours and designs of the current series, then the next series should be bold and simple.