5 april - 1 July 2011
free entrance from scalinata di via Milano 9A
Planned as part of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, this exhibition, sponsored by the Bank of Italy, brings to life one of the lesser known aspects of the unification process: the creation of a single currency for a united Italy. The adoption of the lira, which replaced hundreds of other currencies in use up to then, was the means of integrating the country economically, of opening the door to Italy's participation in the great changes taking place in Europe and the world, and of laying the foundations for its future growth. These are the same goals that inspired the process of European unification and the birth of the euro.
Through the juxtaposition of multimedia content and archive documents, important collections of coins and industrial machinery, objects in everyday use and antique books, modern banknotes and primitive forms of money, we can look at past events and the effect they had on the day-to-day lives of Italians alongside our experience today, from the introduction of the euro to the spread of electronic money. Needless to say, other countries were also undergoing similar changes and, at international level, wider forms of monetary union were already being designed and implemented.
Although most of the items on show are from the Bank of Italy's collections, thanks to the kind collaboration of the Museo Nazionale Romano, the exhibition also includes a vast number of coins from King Victor Emmanuel III's great collection, allowing us to follow Italian monetary history through the whole of the 19th century. From the State Archives there is the original law on monetary unification of 1862, medieval bills of exchange and other documents, and there are many exhibits from numerous other archives, museums, libraries and private collections.
The story begins with the monetary measures introduced by Napoleon after the Italian campaign of 1796 when the Italian lira was minted for the first time. We then move on to the three-year period 1860-62 when Italian monetary unification took shape, looking at the problems and developments up to the establishment of the Bank of Italy in 1893. In parallel to the narration of these events the exhibition recounts the process of European unification, from its beginnings in the early 1950s until the birth of the euro.
The display stands give us more detailed information, through documents and interactive guides, on the general, broader aspects and on particular questions, such as the very different forms money has assumed over the millennia of its history. The role of money in 19th century Italian society and in the different social groups; the economic situation of Italy before and after 1861; the different monetary systems around the world and in the Italian states prior to unification; the development of road, rail and telegraph infrastructure, which - along with money - contributed to the unification processes in Italy and abroad; and the flourishing of paper money with the establishment and development of the note-issuing banks.
The exhibition also dedicates space to illustrating the development of the production processes for money and banknotes, no secondary question and one that Italy - united but still industrially backward - had to address in its process of monetary unification; the history of money and banknotes in the course of the 19th century, not only as regards their economic value but also in terms of their artistic, symbolic and political values; and the forms of money used in the world today and the infrastructure that enables them to circulate.