Citi Money Gallery opens

Room 68
Admission free

A major redisplay of the gallery dedicated to the British Museum’s pre-eminent collection of money has opened, sponsored by Citi. Featuring more than a thousand objects from the Museum’s extensive collections, the Citi Money Gallery looks at the history of the world through the lens of money, from 4500 years ago to the latest developments in digital technology.

The Citi Money Gallery gives a historical context to money at a time when the contemporary global economic situation is in extraordinary focus.

The original Money Gallery at the British Museum opened in 1997. The Museum has been a pioneer in displaying the history of money in the contemporary era and its thematic approach has been imitated in money museums around the world. By refreshing the existing gallery, it continues to innovate in this field.

The entire object selection and design of the gallery has been refreshed. New thematic approaches areused on either side of the gallery. One side considers the authorities behind the issuance of money – the rulers, governments and institutions who issued, backed, and guaranteed the value of money in circulation. The other focuses on individuals and what they used money for, including the social and cultural significance that money has had, as well as its financial uses. These themes progress chronologically, allowing visitors to walk through the history of money.

The beginnings of coinage and the way in which money has taken different forms around the world is explored through early exhibits such as Lydian electrum coins, thought to be among the oldest in existence, Chinese bronze spade and knife money, and Indian punch-marked coins. Other themes in the gallery include the manufacture, counting, saving and hoarding of money; ritual and religious uses of money including burying coins with the dead, pilgrimage, alms-giving, and amuletic uses of coins; and the problem of forgery. In the modern-day section of the gallery, there are sections looking at modern economic institutions, banking, financial crises, and at who or what guarantees the value of the currency in circulation.

As a gallery devoted to a fast-changing field, it will also include regularly updated content, focusing on new technologies – including information on the first payments on plastic cards – and the ways that money continues to change lives. The museum has been working with the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion at the University of California, Irvine, to create brand new case-studies for the gallery. At the opening of the gallery, the first featured case study details the use of mobile phone payments in Haiti following the devastating earthquake in 2010. This almost completely destroyed Haiti’s banking infrastructure, and since then, the use of mobile phones for spending and saving money has increased dramatically. In this, Haiti is ahead of Europe and America, who are just trialling mobile money systems and cashless payments on a large scale.

The gallery will also feature new finds and new hoards as they are discovered. The Museum’s Department of Coins and Medals works closely with the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure recording process, and many newly found hoards come to the British Museum for identifying. New discoveries regularly unearthed from the ground continually change the way we think about the history of ancient Britain. These new ideas will be presented in the gallery.

Michael Corbat, Citi CEO for Europe Middle East and Africa, said
“Citi is delighted to partner with one of the world’s leading museums to bring a new approach to reviewing money and its role in the development of societies over the last 4500 years.

“From the origins of coinage, through to the form money and payments might take in the future, the gallery allows visitors to get a better understanding of the history of money and see one of the largest collections of coins in the world.”

Catherine Eagleton, Curator, said
“For me, the history of money is a way to look at the history of the world. This new permanent display at the British Museum is exciting and timely because it looks at money and the ways that people use it, and how that has changed over the last 4500 years, as well as how it might change in the future.”

The gallery is generously supported by Citi.

 Penny defaced by Suffragettes

Suffragette-defaced penny. UK, AD 1903


For further information or images please contact David Lasserson or Elizabeth Adams at Brunswick Arts: 020 7396 3529/020 7396 5331 or the British Museum on 020 7323 8394

Notes to editors

Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.

Additional information may be found at Citigroup
Citi Blog

Public programme

Visitors are able to handle objects with volunteers from the British Museum’s Hands On programme, and there are guided tours of the new gallery as part of the Eye-openers programme. From Autumn 2012, the British Museum will pilot a new 5-year educational programme based in the gallery, working with secondary schools and community groups.