Mumbai for Kids: Why the 14-year-old RBI Monetary Museum is worth a visit

Updated: Feb 03, 2018, 11:36 IST | Vinitha Ramchandani

The whole of last year was about money and the travails of demonetisation. And what with the new budget, we couldn't not head to the place I've been wanting to go to for a long time - the RBI Monetary Museum

Currency over the centuries  on display
Currency over the centuries on display

Vinitha RamchandaniThe whole of last year was about money and the travails of demonetisation. And what with the new budget, we couldn't not head to the place I've been wanting to go to for a long time - the RBI Monetary Museum. The 14-year-old Monetary Museum (MM) was conceived as part of the educational and outreach programme of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). You have to be looking for the museum to spot it. Enter the hush-hush place and we are told no camera, no bags and strictly no photographs are allowed.

Inside, it is silent and beautiful. The display starts chronologically with replicas of original coins, notes and financial instruments that have been in use for over 2,500 years. The first section, named Ideas, Concepts and Curiosities, tells the story of the origin and evolution of money, and how it transformed from something concrete to abstract — from the barter system to coins made with precious metal, and then to paper and now electronic money. The next section is a visual narrative of Indian coinage, tracing the evolution of coined money from 6 BCE to the present, with details of timelines and important historical events connected to them.

The third section highlights the transition from coins to bank notes over the years, as well as the concept of banking. With my two kids — my 10-year-old son and my 12-year-old daughter — and I is my niece Priyanka, 19, a student of economics who gasps at the information in the next two sections. Along with a tour of indigenous banking, "hundis" and other financial instruments, and the glimpse of the early bank notes in India which evolved in the late 18th to early 19th centuries down to the present, is the section hand-holding visitors on how the demand and supply of currency is managed in the country. It also explains the security features of bank notes.

Alongside all this, in gleaming glass cases, are massive weighing instruments that take your breath away. I wander on my own, revisiting and marvelling at the size of the coins and the history behind them. Cowry shells and beads were among the first items used as currency. Along with the coins are related implements like a counting tray and seeds used to measure the weight of coins. On display are Neolithic axes and bracelet money from West Africa and Southeast Asia, too. Other interesting exhibits are the smallest and biggest coins. I get my thrill looking at the '10,000 note re-introduced in 1954. Most of the 1,500 exhibits on display have been bought from collectors all over the country. When I look for the kids, my son is perched on a high stool at a computer kiosk that seems to have money games. There are enlarged images about the displays and comprehensive games to choose from, which teach children various features and facts about currency notes and coins.

There is just one other person taking a tour of this incredible, and free museum. No staff members hover around. Close to the exit is a wall of pictures of all RBI governors. Priyanka and I stare at the men whose signatures have been on all bank notes since 1935. When we leave, we are given four beautiful booklets that give you information about everything that you've seen at MM, and on the RBI. An ideal keepsake.

Fact file
Where: RBI Monetary Museum, Amar Building, ground floor, Sir Phirozshah Mehta Road, Fort.
Best for: Children aged seven and above.
How to reach: Exit at Churchgate (Western Railway) or CSMT (Central) stations and head here in a taxi.
Timings: Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10.45 am to 5.15 pm
Budget: Free entry.
Food: Not allowed.
Water: Available.
Restroom facilities: Yes.
Where else to go: CSMVS.
Parent poll: Loved the place. It will appeal to children and adults alike.
Rating: ****
Kids' poll: My 12-year-old connects with the history being taught in school. My son was hooked to the interactive money games. The college-going niece found interest in the concepts of economics.
Rating ****

What's good: The museum arranges for quiz contests for school children. The place is ideal to understand economic concepts.
What's Not So Good: More buzz; an audio tour is missing; staff needs to be polite and involved; and the safekeeping area needs better security.

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