When someone mentions a museum about money, it doesn't usually elicit an immediate “Hell yeah, let's do that” response from me. Even as a currency trader, it's not something that gets me terribly excited. I have visited the Museum of American Finance on Wall Street and it was interesting, but it wouldn't be at the top of my list of things to do in the NYC.
But then again, I was basing my entire opinion of the finance museum genre off of one visit. After all, there aren't too many financial museums around. Of course, there are the Wells Fargo Museums, but they just seem too much like blatant advertising.
The finance topic does tend to put people to sleep, so I can see why there aren't too many museums of this type. Just try to bring up Forex trading at a party. Then watch the eyes glaze over.
So when I saw the Bank of Finland Museum come up on TripAdvisor's recommended places to see, I passed it up the first time around. But after doing a bit of research and reading this blog post by Nomadic Matt, I was sold.
After visiting the museum, I must admit that it changed my mind as to what a finance museum can be. Here are the top five reasons why I recommend visiting the Bank of Finland Museum, the next time you are in Helsinki.
5. Learn the History of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Before visiting the museum, I understood what the IMF did, at a basic level. But I never took the time to research the history of the organization and what they have actually done.
There was an informative and easy to read timeline of the IMF on the wall near the entrance that I really enjoyed. It wasn't too technical and highlighted the big events in the history of the IMF. Luckily everything in the museum is in Finnish, Swedish and English, so no translator was needed.
4. It's Free
Although I am totally willing to pay for a quality museum, Helsinki is pretty damn expensive in general. So any time you can get into somewhere without paying, it is a nice bonus. If there was a donation box somewhere, I totally would have donated. But if you are traveling on the cheap, free admission is a welcome phrase to see on the sign at the door.
3. Interactive Displays
There were several different interactive displays, but my favorite one was a calculator that showed you how much a previous currency would be worth in today's money. For example, you could find out how much 500 1901 Finnish markka (FIM) would be worth in 2015 Euros.
2. Fun Displays
Whoever created the displays has a knack for being able to explain monetary concepts in a way that is easy to understand and visually appealing. One display that I liked used pressure gauge like dials to show the current and projected rates of inflation in Finland. You can see the dials below the fun Nostradamus-esque painting.
I also liked looking at the different types of paper money that Finland has had over the years. You really realize how boring US currency has been when you look at the history of some of these other currencies. Some of them really are works of art.
1. Learn The History of Finland
Maybe one of the reasons that the Museum of American Finance wasn't super interesting to me was because it was about, well, American finance. Don't get me wrong, it is a fascinating topic. But we just don't have very much history to talk about. A bunch of guys started trading stocks around a tree and there were a couple of big crashes.
In contrast, European countries have centuries upon centuries of history and studying their means of exchange is a great lens through which to learn about what was happening in the country during various periods of time. I learned a lot about Finland, from their their occupations to the big recession of the 1990's.
Where I am from, Finland never came up in discussions, so I didn't know much about it. But by visiting sites like these, I'm slowly learning about the country and it is fascinating. Next on my list are the National Museum of Finland and the Helsinki City Museum.
Bonus Sightseeing Tip: Uspenski Cathedral
After your visit to the Bank of Finland Museum, I would highly recommend checking out Uspenski Cathedral. It is just a few minutes walk from the BoF Museum and totally worth the visit.
I am a huge fan of religious history and architecture, although I'm personally against religion as an institution. In the same way that you can trace the history of a civilization through its monetary system, looking at their religious beliefs also gives us a deep glimpse into how their society has evolved.
In countries where religion plays a significant role in the society, the churches are tremendous. I am honestly in awe when I look at some of these churches. The most impressive one I have seen in person is the Wavel Cathedral in Poland.
Although the Uspenski Cathedral is not at that level, it is quite ornate and I enjoyed looking at the architecture and design, both inside and out.
While we were visiting, we had the good fortune of being able to observe a wedding. I felt bad that the church was open to the public during such a private event, especially since some visitors were pretty rude. But I was grateful that we got to see part of the ceremony. Unlike most weddings were the guests sit, or sit and stand (and sit and stand, and sit and stand), there were no pews at this wedding and everyone stood.
There is an unsolved mystery at this church. A valuable icon was stolen in broad daylight in 2007 and has not been recovered yet.
So if you are in Helsinki, I would highly recommend checking out the Bank of Finland Museum. Since I am spending an extended period of time in Finland, I am going to be looking for more interesting things to do. One suggestion that I got from Chris Capre was to visit the IceHotel in Lapland. That looks really cool and is currently at the top of my list.
Even if you can't visit a foreign country at the moment, I encourage you to get out from behind your screens and explore your local area. I will bet that there are some really cool things that you never knew existed, right in your neighborhood. Ghost tours, brewery/winery/distillery tours and oddly themed Meetup groups can be a great place to start.
The more common scenario is that there are probably some really popular places that you haven't visited yet because you have taken them for granted. I know that is certainly the case with some places in Hawaii, where I am from. So take some time to explore those too.
If you are traveling slightly longer distances, my Traveling Trader's Gear Guide can give you some good ideas on how to pack light and tips on useful gear that you will need on your travels. I've been able to get a good trade since I have been here. Hope your trading is going well.
— Hugh Kimura (@TradingHeroes) January 8, 2015
What would you recommend doing in Finland? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.