A New York museum is giving the Federal Reserve quite the present for its 100th anniversary.
Next week the Museum of American Finance will open an exhibit called "The Fed at 100," which will run through Oct. 1, 2014. The exhibit — the Wall Street museum's largest ever — will take up three galleries and a theater and will feature information on the central bank's history, culture and role in the U.S.
"We realized that a lot of people may not know what the Fed does exactly so we decided to explain that in a fun, accessible way," says Becky Laughner, the museum's director of exhibits and archives.
The museum has tried to break down information about the Fed into more manageable pieces by focusing on a few important areas, Laughner says. One gallery will delve into the entire Federal Reserve System and its economic policies while the New York Federal Reserve will also get its own display.
The third gallery will feature 100 objects that "touch on the unique facets of the Fed," Laughner says. There will be no labels describing the objects and instead, visitors will listen to commentary about the pieces on phones.
For example, the exhibit will demonstrate the challenges women initially faced at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York by displaying an "officers only" restroom sign. The audio commentary will explain how Madeline McWhinney, who was the first female officer at the New York Fed, could not use the restroom on the officers' floor because it was intended just for men.
"If we heard an anecdote or found out something interesting that we couldn't fit into the rest of the exhibition, this was a way to include those stories," Laughner says.
Two major themes are highlighted throughout the exhibit — the evolution of the Fed in response to various economic crises and the Fed's impact on everyday life. Additionally, there is a deep dive into four jobs — chairman of the board of governors, reserve bank president, research assistant and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
"It is impossible to explain everything," Laughner says. "You may not even realize how much the Fed influences your daily life, like processing checks or the rate you get on your car loan."