1. Why did the Bank of Finland decide to open a museum?
For many years, the Bank of Finland had been reflecting on what kind of forum it could use to inform Finns of the operations and monetary policy of the central bank, in a clearer and more concrete manner. After all, the Bank is Finland’s monetary authority and a member of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). As it operates under the guarantee and care of Parliament and serves all Finns, its operations ought to be familiar to the Finnish public.
Following the introduction of the euro and Finland’s entry into the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Finnish monetary conditions and the role of the Bank of Finland have changed. It is therefore important to reinforce the Finns’ understanding of monetary affairs under the new conditions. Monetary policy is one good example of changes brought about by the euro – monetary policy has changed from being a national issue to a European one. Nowadays Finland participates in the single monetary policy of the euro area, and the Bank of Finland is involved in all phases from preparation to implementation of the policy. Monetary policy decisions are made by the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB). One of the members of the Governing Council is the Governor of the Bank of Finland. Monetary policy decisions are made on the basis of the “single voice” principle, thereby ensuring each member an equal opportunity to affect the decisions.
Being the central bank of the Finnish people and a member of the ESCB, the Bank of Finland considers itself obliged to inform Finns of the present-day business of the Bank and to explain the world of monetary policy, which is generally considered a rather complex matter. A museum offers a convenient and accessible way to familiarise oneself with these issues, which also have important implications when handling one’s personal finances.
The Bank of Finland Museum functions as a window to the current operations of the Bank. Visitors are not only presented with the opportunity to learn about the history of money and of the Bank of Finland but also get an overview of Finnish banknote art and artists. Admission to the museum is free.
The exhibition has been divided into three sections:
I Monetary policy
The heart of the museum is the open area in the centre of the exhibition, where central bank operations and monetary policy are illustrated with display windows and multimedia shows. This part of the museum lives to the heartbeat of the central bank and demonstrates abstract concepts in a clear and understandable way, making it a particularly helpful section for students of economics and finance. Among the concepts illustrated are monetary theory, payment systems, stability of the banking system, monetary supply, exchange rate policy as well as operations of the Bank of Finland and of the European Central Bank.
II History of the Bank of Finland and of the Finnish money market
The history section presents the development of money and monetary policy in Finland and elsewhere, starting from the first coins issued in Lydia, Asia Minor, in approximately 650 BC. History comes alive through authentic objects, unique documents and interesting photographs on display. The history of the Bank of Finland is particularly interesting, as it is the world’s fourth oldest central bank.
III Banknotes and banknote art
The banknote section provides a comprehensive overview of the payment instruments used in Finland throughout history. The display begins from the first markka coins minted in 1860 and ends with the introduction of the euro. The artists behind many banknote designs are also featured prominently: the exhibition presents the most influential artists and sheds light on their banknote art in relation to their other work. The displays also include enlarged photographs of money, enabling visitors to see how the graphic art involved in banknote design has evolved from the 1860s to the present day.
The museum also includes a section set aside for seasonal exhibitions. The current seasonal exhibition portrays the euro as a window to cultural identity. The national sides of euro coins show symbols or images that reflect the respective country's culture or what is unique for it. Therefore euro coins most effectively capture what the single currency is all about: in a multifaceted Europe the same currency can be used anywhere in the euro area, regardless of nationality, language or culture.
2. Why has the Bank only now opened a museum?
Previously we did not have suitable premises for the museum. At one time we were contemplating on setting up an exhibition on central banking in the hall of the main building of the Bank’s head office, but the space turned out to be too small and impractical for the purpose.
The present premises of the museum at Snellmaninkatu 2 used to house a post office. After its closure, Finland Post intended to renovate the building to house their postal museum. When space for the postal museum became available in the head office of Finland Post, they offered the property to the Bank of Finland. This space is ideally suited, as it is close to the Bank’s head office and big enough for the purpose (605 sq metres).
The Bank of Finland bought the property on 28 June 2001. The Bank immediately set up a working group, charged with the task of planning the setting up of an exhibition on money and central banking.
3. What is the history of the property?
In 1857, a post office was built next door to the present museum at Snellmanninkatu 4–6. The building was designed by architect E. B. Lohrmann.
The building at Snellmaninkatu 4–6 was made higher and extended in the late 1880s, but the post office still suffered from lack of space. At the beginning of the 20th century, they decided to build an annex for the post office on the site at Snellmaninkatu 2, which had been empty until then. The site had previously been used, amongst other functions, as a depot for the volunteer fire-brigade. Architect Jac Ahrenberg was commissioned to design the annex in 1900, and the building was inaugurated in 1903.
In the 1960s the building at Snellmaninkatu 2 was dismantled and replaced, keeping the façade of the original building in place.
(Source: Riitta Pakarinen and Juha Virtanen: Nikolainkirkon kortteli. Entisaikain Helsinki XIII. Julkaisija Helsinki-Seura. [The Church of St Nicholas. Helsinki of former times XIII. Published by Helsinki-Seura]. Gummerus. Jyväskylä 1992)
4. Are there other similar museums in Finland?
No, this is the only museum in Finland specialising in the history and modern times of monetary policy. It is open to the public and admission is free.
Many central banks have set up a museum of their own, and they vary in nature. They can take the form of a fairly concise numismatic exhibition, a traditional museum with the sole focus on cultural history or even a museum with an extensive exhibition and a modern approach to explaining monetary policy. The Bank of Finland Museum aims to combine all these aspects, with the main focus being on presenting the present-day workings of the Bank of Finland and of the European System of Central Banks.
Major Finnish banks also have their own, small museum collections, which focus on the bank’s own history and operations. They are generally not open to the public. In addition, the National Museum of Finland has a numismatic collection in its coin cabinet.
5. Who is the museum intended for?
The museum is intended for any member of the public who might be interested in financial, economic and social affairs. It is ideal for sixth formers and other students learning financial and economic affairs. Tourists are also welcome; we speak Finnish, Swedish and English, additionally all the exhibitions and equipment include translations in these languages. The museum is not designed for very young children, as it is targeted at people aged around 15 and over.
6. How many visitors do you get?
The Museum opened its door in the summer of 2003. By the end of the year as many as 8,600 people had already paid a visit to the Museum, and by 2004 visitor levels had risen to over 13,300. In 2005 the Museum had about 12,000 visitors and from 2006 to 2012 about 10,000 visitors annually.
As a comparison the Kungliga Myntkabinettet, a monetary museum three times the size of the Bank of Finland Museum based in Stockholm, has more than 50,000 visitors each year.
7. What is there of particular interest on display at the Bank of Finland Museum?
There is no comparable museum or exhibition on monetary policy in Finland. The museum is also partly interactive. It houses five multimedia consoles, which bring the abstract topics of finance and banking sectors alive. Visitors can try their hand as central bankers with the monetary policy game, take a quiz on monetary policy and see how the price of a train fare, for instance, has changed from the 1800s to present.
From a cultural history perspective, the most valuable items on display are artists’ rough drafts for proposed banknotes, which are of immeasurable value. The numismatic section also has banknotes classified as rarities. In addition, there is the old strong-box, which is said to have contained all the cash money of the Bank of Finland at the time of its relocation from Turku to Helsinki in 1819.
8. Is the entire collection of the Bank of Finland on display at the museum?
Unfortunately, owing to lack of space, this is not possible. The Bank of Finland has 11 kilometres of shelf space full of documents. These include dozens of metres of shelf space containing material on banknote production alone, other numismatic documentation as well as historical objects such as old office equipment. It is impossible to include everything in the exhibition, but we intend putting interesting material on display in the seasonal exhibitions.
The Bank of Finland has a separate numismatic collection in the old vaults of the Bank. This is open to groups upon agreement.
9. Who has designed the Bank of Finland Museum?
The museum has been designed by Architectural Office Juhani Pallasmaa Ky. In spring 2002, in order to find an architectural office, the Bank of Finland put the design up for competitive tender. Juhani Pallasmaa was chosen on the basis of a number of criteria, the most important being prior references, credentials gained in earlier works along with the contents and ideas of the design.
10. What else has Architectural Office Juhani Pallasmaa designed?
Established in 1983, Architectural Office Juhani Pallasmaa Ky carries out projects on urban, architectural, product, exhibition and graphical design. The office specialises in the design of demanding urban spaces and renovation projects. Depending on the project under way, the office employs 12–35 people. They have also completed design projects in the USA, Russia, France and China.
The most important projects completed in Finland include the Ruoholahti environs (a residential area in western Helsinki), the surrounds of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and the Eliel Square in central Helsinki, the renovation of the Sokos department store and of the Old Market Hall in Helsinki, the Siida Sámi Museum in Inari, Lapland, the annex to the Eastern Finland Court of Appeal in Kuopio as well as the Rovaniemi Art Museum in Lapland. They also designed the development plan for the entire 'Antilooppi' block in Helsinki, but only a small part of the project was actually realised. At the moment, Juhani Pallasmaa Ky is involved in the design of the Kamppi Centre in Helsinki. The projects undertaken outside Finland include the entrance courtyard of Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, Moscow International Bank and the Finnish Institute in Paris.
11. How much did it cost to build the museum?
The direct renovation cost of the building and its conversion into a museum come to about EUR 1.2 million. The total cost of the exhibition itself amounts to approximately EUR 1 million.