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The Fed Experience Turns 10

Over the decade, more than 52,000 guests have visited The Fed Experience.

Understanding how the economy works and the Federal Reserve’s role in sustaining it is a curiosity for many, and the Richmond Fed has done its part over the years to provide answers — including creating a space for the general public to step inside the Bank and learn about its operations.

The idea for The Fed Experience began taking shape more than a decade ago and finally came to life in 2010, under the stewardship of the Economic Education team, including Alex Cornwell, who has coordinated the museum’s operations and helped create the guided tours of the museum.

The primary mission of The Fed Experience is to educate students. Adults have also benefited from the museum's programming.

“When the museum opened, my colleague Angie Collier and I sent out information about the museum and made cold calls to organizations to inform them,” Cornwell said. “A lot of people didn’t know what the Federal Reserve Bank was — they get it confused with the Treasury — and people came in thinking they were going to see money being printed.”

Instead, the guided tours acquainted visitors with the Federal Reserve’s roles in setting monetary policy, supervising and regulating financial institutions, and providing payment services to banks.

With The Fed Experience turning 10 this month, the Richmond Fed’s Economic Education department is reflecting on the mission of the museum — to educate students — and the depth and breadth of guests who have experienced it — more than 52,000 students, educators, retiree groups, business and community members, and other guests from around the state, nation and even the world.

“It has been important to be open to the public and allow people to come into the building to learn more about how the Fed affects their everyday lives,” said Sarah Gunn, current Economic Education director, who helped expand an already thriving tour program for middle and high school students to include a tour focused on resume writing, networking and careers at the Federal Reserve.

“It’s one of the few times that we get to talk with students and help them understand the importance of the Bank’s role in the economy as they begin to make economic decisions for themselves,” she said.

The Fed Experience has given visitors insight into how the economy works and how the Fed helps sustain it.

Educators often echoed those sentiments in follow-up correspondence to The Fed Experience leaders. “I want to express my appreciation for your great explanation of the Fed and what it does,” Gordon Miller, an elementary school teacher from New Market, Virginia, said after a visit with students from his school. “The adults really appreciated it and the students were exposed to more information about how our money system works.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Fed Experience has been closed since March. However, between today and July 10, the museum will celebrate its trajectory and service to students and others on the Bank’s social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) and through reflections on The Fed Experience’s webpage.

The Bank’s Economic Education team looks forward to welcoming guests back to the museum once it is safe to do so. Until then, they will continue offering insight into and information about the Federal Reserve System, economics and financial literacy to the District served by the Richmond Fed (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, the District of Columbia and most of West Virginia) through a variety of virtual programs for educators and students.

“The pandemic has forced us to explore new ideas for what the next 10 years could include,” Gunn said. “The new programming being developed will help us bring The Fed Experience to students and reach new areas of the District. We want to make sure we’re meeting the needs of everyone and providing access to financial education.”

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