To mark the re-opening, the Museum will unveil a new exhibition featuring some of the more unusual items from the Bank’s vast collections, illustrating the sheer scope and diversity of historic objects gathered by the Bank since its foundation in 1694. Among the previously unseen items will be a battered leather trunk, whose enigmatic description in the Museum’s 1936 catalogue ledger, ‘Camel pack for carrying gold over deserts’, has, over time, lent it an association with legendary British desert adventurer T.E. Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’) and the specific suggestion that it may have been loaned to him by the Bank for carrying gold across the deserts during World War I.
Another unseen item is a wooden secret ballot box, designed by ‘Architect & Surveyor to the Bank’, Sir John Soane. The box, in the form of a miniature ancient Greek temple, was in use during the 1800s in the Court Room, sitting alongside the main meeting table and used by the Bank’s Court of Directors to cast votes at the end of countless important meetings. Also on display will be albums of elaborately decorated, high-value banknotes signed by distinguished visitors to the Bank, including the likes of President Nelson Mandela and George Eliot.
The art of banknote design will be illustrated by a set of original sketches, printing plates and test prints created in the 1970s by the Bank’s chief designer, Harry Ecclestone, when designing the £10 note which featured Florence Nightingale. The Bank’s art collection will be represented by Dividend Day at the Bank of England, a remarkable scene painted by George Elgar Hicks showing the staff and customers of the Bank conducting their business.
Elsewhere, the exhibition will feature a series of beautifully preserved Roman and mediaeval ceramics discovered in the 1920s during the demolition of Soane’s original Bank building, and the centrepiece of the exhibition, an 18th-century carved wooden figure of the Bank’s emblem Britannia.