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Review of two economic museums

For spring break, I decided to go to Mexico again (and mind you, not to Cancun or any beach place like that), but since it was cheaper, I had to go through NYC. Anyways, I visited the Museum of American Finance in NYC (as recommended by Dr. Tucker) and the Museo Interactico de Economica in Mexico City. Here's my review:

 

Museum of American Financial History: Mostly financial, banking and the like, but really neat nonetheless. They've got some really neat specimens of old private currency, old silver certificates, a five million deutchmark note from the Weimar hyperinflation, and some really great stuff on the history of banking in the US. There's also a really great thing on entrepreneurship, talking about things like risk and having an idea, that sort of thing, which I thought was really great. The other half of the museum is dedicated to stocks, bonds, etc. but still very informative. They have a copy of the first issue of The Wall Street Journal, a ticker tape from the Stock Market Crash of 1929, a computer terminal just like the ones traders use as the NYSE, and there's three really great videos that explain what people at the NYSE, New York Mercantile Exchange, and the bond exchange actually do. I was able to score a pretty NYSE money clip too.

 

MIDE: Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution recommended this place. I was somewhat disappointed. It was, as the reply to my comment in Dr. Tucker's post, was mostly about teaching kids about economics. In fact, the only other people I saw there were school groups. Also for some reason, some of the interactive things where in English yet they'd still have Spanish audio. I did understand most of the signs and whatnot, and it was a nice look at basic economics, like you need land, labor, capital, etc. They had a nice little video talking about the pinmaker's story from "The Wealth of Nations."

My biggest complaint was when I got to the section on government. They had a cute little Sim City type game where you're the local mayor and you have to fix local problems. You'd get proposed a situation and you'd have to choose an option to handle it. Here's one example that I can remember which was along the lines of:

 The local schools are falling apart and scores are extremely low. What do you do?

1) Ignore the problem
2) Repair existing schools

3) Repair existing schools and build new schools

 

Personally, I would just give parents either cash or vouchers for education and say "Send them to any school you want." The only one I felt was closest to mine was "Ignore the problem" but apprently, the correct answer was either 2 or 3. Sigh.

 

There were some neat things, like a huge LED board that shows inflation indexes for pretty much every common good in Mexico. The last room (they force you to see exhibits in a certain way and it's not just a recommendation - they yell at you if you don't)  talks a bit about GDP and has comparisons about countries' standard of livings comparing GDP, literacy rate, health care, etc. In the middle of this room was a neat little model that was like a 3D bar graph that you could choose some statistic like health care and it would physically change the bar so you can see how it changes. As the only American in the room of some schoolgroup playing around with it, I got a kick how the US constantly topped everything.

The MIDE did have a decent giftshop though. I got a nice bookmark for my economic books for about $2, and I got a nice pen with old shredded 50 peso notes.

 

Personally, out of the two, I like the Museum of American Financial History, and not just because everything was in English.  At least they promote the power of the free market, whereas MIDE devoted a good section to why we "need" central banks and government to provide services. 


Posted Mar 08 2008, 09:45 AM by champthom

Comments

Most important is to be true.. » Two Economics Museums wrote Most important is to be true.. » Two Economics Museums
on Mon, Mar 10 2008 1:03 PM

Pingback from  Most important is to be true.. » Two Economics Museums

David wrote re: Review of two economic museums
on Mon, Mar 10 2008 4:19 PM

When I visited MIDE in December, I got a chance to play their stock exchange simulation, which was actually quite fun.  Got to wear a vest and everything.  I did wonder who financed the museum, and as it turns out the whole thing was financed by the Mexican central bank, so it came to no surprise to see the heavy bias towards central banking in the exhibits.

Fephisto wrote re: Review of two economic museums
on Mon, Mar 10 2008 4:54 PM

"they force you to see exhibits in a certain way and it's not just a recommendation - they yell at you if you don't"

That'd piss me off.