Smart Money: C&G Partners Designs New Wall Street Museum (Part 2)

MAF view 1.jpgSo, how did C&G Partners design a museum that would: a) tell the history of American finance in a modern way inside an ornate old bank building and b) have the ability to magically disappear every night?

“We did have a curious challenge,” said C&G founding partner Jonathan Alger on Wednesday, when we were treated to a sneak peek at the new Museum of American Finance. As for the exhibit design, C&G thought of the building itself–formerly the headquarters of the Bank of New York–as the largest object in the collection. Inside that megaobject they created a series of exhibits with multimedia presentations and moveable glass cases filled with financial artifacts and ephemera arranged to tell the story of America’s money markets.

The largest exhibit, “Financial Markets,” encompasses stocks, bonds, commodities, and other “artifacts of boom and bust times.” Even the most CNBC-averse designers will delight in the selection of vintage Fortune covers and a 1945 war bond adorned with Disney characters. And perhaps, thanks to one display, children (and some adults) will no longer be perplexed when they hear about the trading of pork bellies:

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There’s also a “teaching ticker” to demystify that perpetual scroll of symbols and share prices, and a feed from the New York Stock Exchange that enlivens the marble-lined space with the murmurs of commerce. “The cacophany is intentional,” said Alger. “We want people to get a sense of what is the lifeblood of finance that runs through this city.”

One particularly impressive area is that occupied by the “Banking in America” and “Entrepreneurs” exhibits. The former exhibit, lit cleverly by a series of green glass-shaded banker’s lamps, explains the mechanics of banking, from an audio clip of It’s a Wonderful Life‘s George Bailey discussing how banks put your deposits to work to a collection of vintage piggy banks (not to be confused with pork bellies). The entrepreneurs section features a series of specially commissioned video interviews with the likes of jetBlue founder David Neeleman and maternitywear magnate Liz Lange. Some of the videos play on screens that seem to magically float inside large wall mirrors–at the press of a button, the screen is gone and the mirror back to normal.

MAF view 2.jpgAmong the other highlights are a special gallery for rotating exhibits, a pocket theater featuring short subject videos, and a room devoted to Alexander Hamilton.

OK, now you know about the exhibit design. Next up, we’ll give you the details on the identity. Stay tuned.