Follow the Money, and the History

November 5, 2009

By Alan Feuer, The New York Times

For bankers and brokers, Wall Street is not so much a place as perhaps a dream (or, last year, a nightmare): a churning pool of risk, debt, credit, and information that is best realized in the physical world as the blinking screen of a Bloomberg terminal. But for ordinary New Yorkers, Wall Street is a neighborhood, a neck of the city’s woods that more or less runs from ground zero to Battery Park. There, one finds the aorta of the nation’s financial heart, of course, but also shops and cafes and bits of history...

What you really need, however, is a bit of perspective, and that is to be found at the Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall Street, (212) 908-4110. There you can find exhibits on the history of money (a 60-pound gold bar, counterfeit notes), the financial markets in America (vintage bond coupons, an old ticker machine) and the women of Wall Street (the desk of Isabel Benham, a financial analyst and female Wall Street pioneer.) Most impressive, though, is the museum's timeline tracking the progression of the credit crisis. It begins with the bursting of the American housing bubble in 2006. There is plenty of room left for the next crash.