PARIS – The Cite de l’Economie, a new museum which launched Friday in Paris, is offering visitors an interactive and playful exhibition that grapples with the basic notions of economics through six permanent spaces.
The exploration kicks off with a mundane object: a toaster, by Thomas Thwaites, that burnt to a crisp in its first attempt to brown a slice of bread.
This object allowed the British designer to conclude that economics is born out of man’s inability to meet all of his personal needs singlehandedly.
After spending 10 months gathering all the elements to create his kitchen appliance, Thwaites destroyed the object with its first practice run at making toast, but this allowed him to reflect on the difficulties of creating a quotidian object from nothing, a true revelation for the inventor and designer.
“What we do (human beings) is specialize in the production of a good or service, we value it and thanks to that we earn an income, purchase other products or services, we exchange things,” Philippe Gineste, director of the museum, told EFE on Friday.
The museum is located in the northeastern VII district within the magnificent Gaillard Hotel, a Neo-Renaissance masterpiece considered a historic monument which has served both as a Hotel and a former branch of the Bank of France.
The museum has chosen to keep the original distribution of the hotel across 2,400 square meters.
The permanent exhibition is split across six sequences. Each one is interactive with visual and role-playing games which allow punters to immerse themselves into the main drivers and actors of economic activities.
The toaster, alongside other objects, takes pride of place in the former dining room, which opens the first sequence of the experience named “Exchange.”
This space describes the different types of trade, which include financial exchanges as well as bartering.
Punters then enter a space painted in a deep red that has been redesigned to look like an airport passenger security checkpoint and various objects go through a scanner revealing their origin and place of creation among other details.
In the space titled “Actors,” visitors, with the use of a device, can become a bank registrar who has to deal with client requests such as loans and information on investment opportunities.
The fifth sequence titled “Regulations” sees visitors become representatives of world powers in charge of negotiating an international agreement on climate change ensuring that the agreement includes the interests of the power the visitor is representing.
The “Treasure” space allows punters to handle a bar of gold.
“We do have a real trove in the ‘Treasure’ room,” Gineste said, “ We present some 400 objects: ancient coins, banknotes and machines,” he added.
Also included in the exhibition are sensory experiences that revive the economic crisis of the 1930s or an opportunity to have a conversation with renowned economists such as John Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman.
“This is a space to discover what economics is in a playful and interactive way in the same way we would at a science museum,” the director continued.
The director added that the museum experience has been designed with people of all ages in mind.
“You only have to know how to read, it is very playful. It works well for kids, but also for teenagers given there are a lot of questions and areas students are learning about at this age,” he said.
“To understand the economy better can help them (young people and children),” Gineste concluded.