Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta Heritage, General, Kolkata Museum, Museum > Reserve Bank of India Museum, Kolkata

Reserve Bank of India Museum, Kolkata

Reserve Bank of India Museum

Kolkata

Do you know, long before the introduction of money food grains, salt, replicas of tools, cowries and even giant donut shaped stones served as a medium of exchange? The newly opened Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Museum provides an extensive insight into the history of money and banking.

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An installation showing the evolution of money, RBI Museum, Kolkata

Opened on 11 March 2019 this is the second RBI museum in the country. It came 21 years after the inaugural one opened its gates at the Mumbai headquarters.

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RBI Museum Building (shot from a graphic displayed in museum)

Located at 8 Council House Street the RBI Museum is just a short distance away from the RBI Kolkata regional office.

It was at this very building the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was formed under the governorship of Sir Osborne Smith in 1935. Also the building was the venue of the first annual general meeting of the shareholders held in 1936.

But the building predates the RBI and once housed the Alliance Bank of Shimla. and in 1935 RBI took it on lease.

Later in 1943 Alliance Bank went in liquidation and RBI acquired the property. Initially the RBI’s central office and banking department was housed in this building while the issue department operated from the nearby Currency Building.

In the mid 1950s the new RBI building came up in the place of Old Custom House and served as RBI, Kolkata Regional Office, but several departments continued to function in the old office of 8 Council House Street.

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Entrance of RBI Museum, Kolkata

The iconic red and white building was constructed by Martin & Co. It was owned by Sir Rajen Mokherjee and Sir Thomas Acquin Martin.

The building still houses several departments of RBI. The newly opened RBI Museum is housed at the ground floor of the iconic building.

The RBI Museum has been designed jointly by a team of RBI officials and Creative Museum Designers (CMD), a Kolkata-based company under the National Council of Science Museums.

The reception area of the museum contains a registration deck along with a small souvenir shop. The souvenir shop sells RBI memorabilia, many of which are made of shredded notes.

The walls are decorated with shredded note design and the pillars contains a collage of discarded coins.  A compilation of drawing shows the journey of Indian currency notes write from the making of the paper to the process of destruction.

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History of Money, RBI Museum, Kolkata

The entrance to the museum is through a self opened glass door passing through a one rupee coin. Apart from the ground floor the museum also has a mezzanine floor housing a game area.

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History of RBI, RBI Museum, Kolkata

The visit to the RBI Museum starts with a small documentary. The 20 minutes documentary depicts the history of RBI along with a brief introduction to finance and banking.

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Gold Prices and History of RBI through decades

Apart from exhibits and write ups the RBI Museum houses several audio visual displays and touch screen monitors and has has several interactive sections.

According to the authorities the objective of the museum is to use storytelling as a tool to create financial and banking literacy.

Its main objective was to provide a brief idea about the history and evolution of RBI.

At the centre of the ground floor stands a 12 feet high installation art depicting the evaluation of money. It starts from coins and notes evolving into online transfer of money and finally into cryptocurrency.

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Game Area, RBI Museum, Kolkata

The ground floor houses three sections, namely:

  1. History of Money
  2. History of Gold
  3. History of RBI

History of money starts with the prehistoric time and moves on to the batter system. A display board demonstrates the barter system using grains as a medium of exchange.

Then the introduction of metals as money followed by coins and paper money. Finally leading to the development of plastic money (credit and debit cards) and into the future of cryptocurrency.

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Model of a gold vault, RBI Museum, Kolkata

Although the display boards are in English but Bengali and Hindi translations are provided in cards kept below each display. Among the artifacts displayed the most interesting is a replica of a Yap Stone. The giant stone disc is about 2 meters in diameter with a central hole was once used as a money in the Pacific island of Yap.

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Model showing traditional Indian banking practice, RBI Museum, Kolkata

The section on history of money continues through several displays which even includes models and video clips explaining more complex financial issues like gold standards and inflation.

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This section displays a variety of high value currency notes from countries with high rate of inflation and includes a ten billion dollar note from Zimbabwe.

Also in display is a 10,000 dinar note from Iraq, which happens to be the last note of Saddam Hussein.

The next section deals with gold and the recreated gold vault is definitely the centre of attraction.

One can even lift a gold bar weight about 12.5 kg. Also displayed in the vault is a amazing assortment of locks used to keep the gold vault under safe custody.

Also the display contains a touch screen monitor showing gold reserve of different countries of the world.

A bar chart shows the price of gold over the years. A weighing scale gives we the opportunity of weighing yourself against bars of gold (12.5 Kg and 1 Kg).

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Evaluation of RBI logo

There are even displays containing more complex economic issues like the 1991 financial crisis and its solution.

The third and the final section deals with the history and evolution of Reserve Bank of India (RBI). It contains interesting facts, figures and vintage photographs.

There is also an interesting section on the evaluation of the RBI logo. It started of as a lion and palm tree but the lion was soon changed with a tiger. The tiger was chosen from the tiger statue which is at the top of the National Library gate.

The last part of this section contains a display of machinery used by the RBI and includes note stitching and pinching machines. Beam balance, shovels for removing coins, lanterns, seals and many more. The central part of the RBI Museum has a sensor powered electronic display showing the history of RBI through decades.

Vintage press and the certificate (click to enlarge), RBI Museum, Kolkata

Vintage press and the certificate (click to enlarge), RBI Museum, Kolkata

Another interesting exhibit in the ground floor is a printing press, which is still in operation. Visitors in the RBI Museum can get a certificate with their names printed by the vintage press.

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Bioscope and illusion, game area, RBI Museum, Kolkata

The mezzanine floor houses the game area and it is centred around a old bioscope showing a brief video on the history of RBI. It not only provides information but the bioscope will definitely rekindle childhood memories for the older visitors. The adjacent wall contains a illusion of bank notes.

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Souvenir Shop, RBI Museum, Kolkata

The game area also contains traditional games like the carrom and snake & ladder, but each of these comes with a financial twist.

As soon as a carrom coin is pocketed a message is flashed on the two screens adjacent to the board making the players aware of financial nomenclature.

Same for snake & ladder. A soon a coin hits the bottom of a ladder a positive financial message is flashed on the screen and when it falls a the mouth of a snake a negative message is flashed. There is also an option financial quiz displayed via a touch screen display.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm and entry is free even the vintage printed certificate comes absolutely free. While you head back home from the RBI Museum do take home a piece of souvenir from the souvenir shop.

  1. Debatri Bagchi Roy
    November 14, 2019 at 12:53 PM

    A great post. A nicely written history of the building.

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