The Fed Center: Exploring our Nation’s Central Bank is a permanent installation at the San Francisco Fed – designed to teach the public about the functions of the U.S. central bank through a series of guided hands-on and visually engaging experiences. Whimsical and thought-provoking elements in the exhibit include giant iconic representations of financial concepts, such as a free-floating sphere, a suspended safe, and a 14-foot tilting chair. The Fed Center also features one of the most comprehensive collections of U.S. currency in the country.
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Currency Theatre and Museum
Visitors enter here for an introductory presentation, and to view the most extensive public collection of rare and valuable antique currency in the United States. This collection includes engraved notes by Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere, along with the celebrated Grand Watermelon Note of 1890—prized by collectors and worth more than a million dollars in the collectors’ market. A multi-media show surrounds the audience on three sides and introduces them to the Fed. The video puts the currency collection in perspective with the full exhibit, presents the artifacts, and explains their relationship to the history of the U.S. financial system.
A Fourteen-Foot-Tall Tipping Chair
In times of crisis, how does the Fed act to stabilize the nation’s financial system and maintain liquidity? A fourteen-foot chair that tips as you approach provides the conceptual context for maintaining stability in times of uncertainty. In a real-life example, a nearby video narrates how the Federal Reserve responded to events following 9-11 to calm the financial markets.
Giant Free-Floating Sphere
How does the Federal Reserve influence the nation’s financial system to promote a healthy economy? Setting monetary policy is one of the Fed’s most important and visible roles because its decisions have the potential to affect our nation’s economy. The goals of monetary policy are twofold: maximum sustainable employment and price stability. Visitors can affect the movement of the giant free-floating economy ball to learn how the subtle influences of the Federal Reserve ensure that the economy runs smoothly. Images of visitors are projected on the sphere. Nearby touch screen computer games test visitors’ savvy on price stability and let them play the role of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Chairman by using interest rates to affect inflation.
Giant Suspended Safe
A sound banking system is a key component of a healthy economy. Visitors view a suspended safe illustrating, with cables and weights, the many forces at work to support and regulate financial institutions. A nearby visitor station features case histories on community investment and fair lending that illustrate banks’ roles in community revitalization. Visitors can test their skills as bank examiners using a “pachinko”-style game to determine the relative risk or safety and soundness of banks.
A Virtual Waterfall
Every day, billions of dollars in cash, checks, and wire transfers pass through the Federal Reserve Banks. At a glass-screen virtual waterfall, visitors see an approximation of the high-speed transactions that keep the economy moving. When visitors touch the glass, the waterfall of scrolling numbers parts to reveal various facts about the payments system.