Anthropology museum shows the money

Flying fox teeth from Pacific Islands and African rat traps are among the many objects included in the new exhibit, “Shelling Out: Buying and Selling Through Time,” at Wake Forest University’s Museum of Anthropology. The exhibit, which runs from Oct. 1 through March 31, includes primarily non-traditional types of currency from all major geographic areas in the world.

“What we consider as money today is actually quite boring in comparison to what has been used as currency in the past,” said Beverlye Hancock, curator of education for the museum.

As an in-house exhibit, the pieces have primarily been pulled from the museum’s own collections. Four categories of currency will be on display: shells, metal, other materials, and perishables. All are forms of actual money that met today’s criteria for currency. Each of the pieces shown were fairly standardized and could be broken down into smaller denominations.

The exhibit features a wide variety of currencies, ranging in size, shape, and age. Featured objects include large non-functional items such as iron swords and bells from Africa and a replica of large, round stone discs from the island of Yap. Shell money made in 3,000 B.C. in Mesopotamia will be on exhibit. Currency from the Pacific Islands is also featured.

“It resembles jewelry, with each link representing various values,” says Hancock.

Salt, livestock, coffee and chocolate are examples of perishable currencies covered in the exhibit. While most of the objects are originals, a few, like livestock, are representations or illustrations. Modern U.S. and foreign paper and coin money are on display for comparison and interactive activities.
Admission to the exhibit is free. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. For information, call 336-758-5282.

Categories: Arts & Culture