by Ashely Houston, Museum Coordinator
As the months pass by and we get closer to the opening of the new museum, the collections staff has been hard at work behind-the-scenes making preparations for the big move. It has been an exciting opportunity for the collections department because we have been able to take the time to do a thorough examination of the objects in our collection. These objects, stored carefully on shelves and in cabinets, have so much history behind them. Each and every one of them is getting their chance to jump out at us and demand our attention. Most recently, some paper currency caught our eyes.
The museum has a small collection of bills from around the world. What struck me as I was going through these was the blending of cultures represented on different bills. Take this one for example: “The Japanese Government- One Peso.”
If it’s a Japanese bill, why is it written in English? And why is it a Peso instead of Yen or another form of Japanese currency?
Other bills led to similar questions. “Italy 1 Lira?” Why isn’t it in Italian?
A little research revealed that the answer has to do with war. During World War II, an occupying military force would often print and circulate their own money in the area they were controlling. This money could be used alongside the occupied-country’s existing currency. Doing this allowed the military to pay their troops in currency they could use locally, pay the occupied territory for supplies and other services, and ultimately manipulate the economy. In the case of the Japanese Government Pesos, this money was issued by Japan and used in the Philippines. Due to hyperinflation in the Philippines, though, the money was nearly worthless and was deemed “Mickey Mouse” money.
It might seem a little strange to have money that was issued by one country and used in another to end up in our locally-focused museum. However, the great thing about this currency is that it represents how war reaches people around the world, including those who lived right here in Fort Collins and brought it back after serving oversees.