With Edinburgh being a city steeped in banking - the New Town was the first place in the world where people advertised themselves as accountants, paid to manage other people's money - it's perhaps no surprise to find a museum within the headquarters of a global bank!
The Museum on the Mound is perhaps a slightly coy name for what is essentially a history of banking and finance. It resides in the lower storey of the Bank of Scotland building at the top of the Mound, on what is actually named Bank Street. As with the majority of Edinburgh's museums and galleries, entry is free - and although it's a relatively small attraction it is crammed with fascinating and intriguing information about the cash we carry in our pockets.
The Bank of Scotland was established (by an Englishman) in 1695, a year after the Bank of England was established (by a Scotsman). A year later it became the first commercial bank in Europe to release banknotes into general circulation, promising to pay the bearers of the paper notes 'on demand' the cash equivalent of the value they represented. Since the 17th century the bank has evolved and is now part of the Lloyds banking group, and part of the Museum on the Mound charts the growth and change of the bank and its functions over the last three hundred years.
From issuing early banknotes to the modern technology which allowed cash to be taken out from ATMs, banking and finance has been an industry which has grown and changed as society has developed.
And just as our relationship with money has changed, so issues like forgery, fraud and theft have been problems that the bank has had to find solutions to across the years. You can even try your hand at safe cracking! Solve the riddles and spin the wheel of a specially designed safe - succeed and getting it open and you can 'steal' a golden voucher which can be exchanged for a reward at the museum's giftshop.
And if you've ever wondered what a million pounds in cash looks like, there's a cool £1,000,000 on display in a glass case! (No truth to the rumour that it is the Bank of Scotland's last million pounds, which they're very keen to show off....!) Sadly the notes have been invalidated, so even if you could find a way of sneaking them off the premises, they wouldn't be worth very much if you tried to spend them....
The displays are well laid out with plenty of interesting detail to explore. See a facsimile of the story that was printed in the local newspaper following the murder in Edinburgh's Old Town of William Begbie in 1806, along with the original cape worn in the iconic Scottish Widows insurance adverts. From the plates used for printing banknotes - then and now - to the emblems of the different iterations of the bank and its subsidiaries, there's all manner of historical artefacts on display.
The Bank of Scotland building itself is David Bryce's renovation of the original structure, dating from the late 1860s. It is an impressive sandstone edifice, offering views from the museum space across towards the New Town of Edinburgh, and topped with a statue of the goddess Nike, sculpted by John Rhind.
It's an iconic building, and perfectly placed to act as a major landmark of Edinburgh's city centre. The Museum on the Mound is accessed by an entrance directly from the Mound on the western side of the building.
All-in-all you'll discover there's much more to your money than you might have realised...
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