Finance museum testifies to past Wall St crises

NEW YORK Thu Nov 20, 2008 2:23pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Museum of American Finance opened an exhibit on Thursday on the tumultuous history of Wall Street trading, one more reminder of past mistakes that investors seem doomed to repeat, the museum's chief said.

The exhibit in the restored Bank of New York building on Wall Street coincides with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"The lessons of history are learned and constantly disregarded in the view of sometimes overwhelming profits," said museum president Lee Kjelleren. "That is just a recurring theme."

The idea for the museum was inspired by the 1987 stock market crash and the absence of institutional memory within the financial community. It moved into its new home in January.

MBA students and CEOs visit the museum. Super investor Warren Buffett once banged on the door at closing time and was allowed in for an after-hours tour.

The main hall with its 30-foot (9-meter) ceilings is sometimes rented out for parties -- though several financial companies have canceled holiday festivities there this year.

The "Trading on the Street" exhibit includes the original Buttonwood Agreement that founded what is now the New York Stock Exchange in 1792. Also on display are artifacts and images recounting the history of trading, which took place outside on the street until 1921.

The museum is already preparing an exhibit on the financial crisis of 2008.

"I'm saving newspapers and taking pictures of the protests on Wall Street," said Leena Akhtar, curator of the latest exhibit. "The story is still unfolding."

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

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