Central Point (Economic History Museum).

The Central Point is a completely refurbished building behind Dutch Hospital, run by the Central Bank. It’s a beautiful space which now houses a money museum and a cafe.

After the Central Bank bombing in 1996 the beautiful Central Point building was damaged and abandoned. The last time I peeked inside it looked like a makeshift barracks, with soldiers hanging laundry from the elegant atrium rails. Today it makes us very happy to see that the charming building – the tallest in Colombo when it was built in 1914 – is restored and home to an interesting if slightly strange money museum.

The Location

The atrium

It’s a magnificent space. Colonial Colombo went a bit crazy with the Greco-Roman architecture sometimes (Town Hall), but in moderation it made for some charming spaces like this. What first strikes you is the circular, tapering atrium, going up what I think is seven floors. Amazing that this was once the tallest thing in Colombo.

The circular halls adjoining the atrium are small but the floor tiles and everything are beautiful, and the height of the atrium really connects the space.

Exterior view of the cafe

Even the woodwork and paneling is exquisite, and the generosity of windows and glass makes for an ideal urban space (Bank Of Ceylon building, eat your heart out).

An internal window

All the little touches are nice. It’s been restored very well.

The Museum

Honestly, we think they restored the space and had no idea what to do with it. What they’ve inserted is an interesting but fundamentally weird and meagre money museum. There are no coins of particular value here and there are actually displays of money currently in circulation. As in, you can go to a museum to look at a 10 Rupee coin, which looks like it’s been super-glued onto cardboard.

Cows and fishes and the weakness of bartering

There is also this epic Cow Vs. Fishes thing which keenly illustrates the value of money over bartering. We will reproduce the printed dialogue here in full because it’s awesome.

Fishmonger: Hey… Going somewhere?
Cowherd: I want to buy some fish
F: Well… in exchange of what?
C: This cow…
F: A cow for some fish…? What a deal! Will give you a whole truckload then!
C: What the hell am I to do with a truckload of fish?
F: Fine, then take this fish and give me the cow
C: Are you out of your mind? Why would I exchange a cow for a fish?
F: So you just want to get some fish on the pretext of exchanging a cow?
C: Hey cool down man why don’t we see how we can make this work?

And that is how money was invented.

500 Rupee notes up close

Besides that you can see how money is printed. Or stand next to really big replications of money. Or look at rupee coins.

An Indian silver rupee

They also have giant 3D TV downstairs playing nothing. And like 20 staff, all very nice, perhaps because they thought we were CHOGM delegates.

If you’re looking for a mind-expanding or even slightly educational museum, this isn’t it. If you want to take your picture with giant 10 Rupee coins and life-sized cows, this is a great place. For us it’s just an excuse for the public to access the building, which we think is a definite good thing.

There’s a cafe downstairs which we didn’t try out. We suppose it serves food, but the Dilmah Tea Lounge and the when-will-it-open Sandwich Bar are down the street.

We recommend a visit just for the building. Perhaps tourists won’t find it that mind-blowing, but being the first generation to see this part of town re-open, we think it’s pretty special.

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