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Thursday 21 March 2019
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Central Bank reaches out to families in new museum

Central Bank museum curator Nimah Muwakil. Photo by Jeff K Mayers
Central Bank museum curator Nimah Muwakil. Photo by Jeff K Mayers

RHIANNA MCKENZIE

From the moment you enter the capital city, the Twin Towers are the most notable part of the waterfront. They may not be the skyscrapers that most foreign visitors are used to but for us, the towers of the Eric Williams Financial Complex are the centerpiece of the city.

As iconic as the towers may be to the architectural landscape of the city, what goes on inside is even more significant. The east building houses, among others, the Ministry of Finance, while the west tower is home to the Central Bank, including the newly re-commissioned Central Bank Museum.

Teachers Staycion Harvey and Debra Boucaud-Mason perform a short impromptu skit using sign language to demonstrate how the value of money has changed over the years to the students of the Cascade School for the Deaf at the Central Bank Museum, Port of Spain. Photo by Jeff K Mayers

Established in 2004 in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the bank, the Central Bank Museum, formerly known as the Money Museum, has recently undergone an extensive and modern rebranding into a state-of-the-art facility. Its immersive design guides patrons on a tour through the history of money in the country and the significant role that the bank plays in the country’s economic development. The museum’s curator, Nimah Muwakil has been a part of the project from start to finish and guided Business Day through the new and improved exhibits and information centre.

The entrance to the Central Bank Museum, Port of Spain. Photo by Jeff K Mayers

The museum was re-opened on January 16, and is open to the public on weekdays from 9 am to 3 pm. Guests can walk in at any time and tour bookings can be arranged online for parties of 15 or more on bank's website, www.central-bank.org.tt. The exhibit was designed to be a fun, educational experience for the whole family and engages audiences with several interactive displays.

The Central Bank is also known for its expansive local art collection, housing over 200 original pieces, which are frequently rotated and featured in the foyer of the museum. Works from prominent local artists such as LeRoy Clarke, Pat Bishop and Peter Minshall are all part of the collection. Muwakil explains that the inclusion of the art corner was a vital part of the rebranding of the museum. The museum also boasts a research room, equipped with books and computers with internet access, stocked with information on the history of money and trade in the country and around the world, as well as notes, coins and other artifacts found at the museum.

Yvette Saldena, Cynthia Stephenson, curator Nimah Muwakil and assistant curator Adlene Joseph-Martinez sit in the Art Corner of the Central Bank Museum. Photo by Jeff K Mayers

The exhibit features three main themes that were specifically designed to educate and entertain the public: The Bank Works for You; The Economy and Diversification; and The History of Money. Each section is strategically designed to engage and educate the public using a combination of displays, games and activities. The exhibit details the bank’s role in managing inflation and its role as financial advisor to the government. One of the many displays involves a small grocery store set up that demonstrates to children how inflation affects their day-to-day lives, although one can’t help but wonder if it was also set up to show them why mummy and daddy can’t always afford their favourite snacks.

Cascade School for the Deaf student Jordan Jemmott reacts on seeing the security features of the TTD currency under a black light at the Central Bank Museum. Photo by Jeff K Mayers

Muwakil explains that the tour is informative and interactive, and visitors are often asked to offer their insights on ways in which the government can grow the economy into other industries. And the tour is perfect for coin collectors. On display is every single note and coin produced by the Central Bank since Independence, as well as commemorative coins and artifacts from the British Colonial period, such as 1940s World War II ration cards, on loan from Muwakil’s own grandmother. “I used to hear my grandmother talking about ration cards when I was growing up,” said Muwakil, “so it was a nice personal touch for me to have it as part of the display.”

A commemorative coin to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire (1807). The edge inscription reads: "Am I note a man and a brother." A gift from the Royal Mint. Photo by Jeff K Mayers

Muwakil explains the painstaking process of putting together a project of this magnitude. Having obtained her bachelor's in art history and museology at the Universidad de Oriente in Cuba, and her MPhil in cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, she spent five years at the National Museum before joining the team at the Central Bank in 2013. Even as a seasoned professional, she acknowledges that the project was a huge undertaking.

“We wanted the process to be as inclusive as possible,” she explained, adding that from the very beginning a “vision session” was organised in order to get the input of various stakeholders, including teachers from schools that frequently visited the museum in years past. It was at this session, says Muwakil, that the plan for the exhibit was originally formulated.

From there it was back to the drawing board to bring the vision to life. The process involved the help of both local and foreign expertise, among them Caribbean Entertainment Technologies, Canadian-based Lord Cultural Resources and US-based Blue Water Studios.

The goal, says Muwakil, is to educate the public on the importance of the bank and how it affects everyday life. Entry to the Central Bank Museum is free of charge.

Check out our photo gallery to see the other items in the exhibit

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