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Show Me The Money: Improving Public and Professional Understanding of Finance

Critics, curators, artists and writers were brought together with financial practitioners, journalists, educators and think tanks via the Show Me The Money projects. Professor Nicky Marsh explored how financial and economic knowledge are mediated through culture - art, literature, film and language. Her work has contributed to the emergence of the field of ‘economic humanities’. It has influenced educational practices, public debate and understanding, the finance sector itself.


How is money really made? How is financial advice presented? And what do the art, illustrations and photography that chart the financial world tell us about this?

Show Me The Money tackles these questions – questions that became pertinent after the 2008 financial crisis.

The crisis undermined belief in the self-regulating and efficient market. The economy, as numerous commentators noted, was too important to be left to economists and new models of understanding and analysis were actively sought.

Courtesy of the John Hansard Gallery, 2014
Courtesy of the John Hansard Gallery, 2014

Research challenge

Marsh’s research brings together critics, curators, artists and writers with financial practitioners, journalists, educators and think tanks. She co-curated an exhibition of more than 100 artefacts, charting themes such as the association of 

debt with death and the association of credit with escape, made most evident in the recurring image of the bubble and balloon.

Her work has been a key catalyst in the emergence of the ‘economic humanities’, a field that analyses the role that culture plays in financial understanding. Her research has produced four central insights:

  • The materiality of the money form. Rather than seeing money as a neutral veil behind which the economy operates, Marsh examines it as a socially generative medium. She has explored a satirical history of money’s instabilities, and looked at the parallels between art and the ‘escaped’ money offshore.
  • The consistently gendered nature of money and the economy.
  • A detailed history of finance’s representation within visual culture, through a collaboration with Dr Paul Crosthwaite (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Peter Knight (University of Manchester).
  • A history of financial advice across three centuries, though a collaboration with Crosthwaite and Knight plus Dr Helen Paul (University of Southampton) and Dr James Taylor (University of Lancaster).
Molly Crabapple, Debt and her Debtors, 2013
Molly Crabapple, Debt and her Debtors, 2013. Creative Commons Licensce

Show Me The Money: The Exhibition

About 75,000 people engaged with Show Me The Money, visiting the exhibition when it toured the UK, and attending education and training courses. The exhibition’s accompanying ideas, texts and debates reached well over a million people through regular inclusion in national arts and business programming.

The exhibition also had a digital reach, with 13,100 individuals accessing its accompanying online content which included an interactive quiz. There was also an app launched alongside the exhibition, which was downloaded 481 times.

Education through the National Curriculum and a MOOC

Financial education has been included on the National Curriculum since 2014. Marsh has worked with teachers to develop lesson plans to expand the current offering to include a critical political, social and historical context. The resources were approved by Young Enterprise in early 2020.

Marsh has also been the lead educator on a FutureLearn MOOC, Understanding Money: The History of Finance, Speculation and the Stock Market, which has run twice and has reached over 8,000 learners across 112 countries. 

History of Financial Advice: Influence on finance professionals

Marsh’s research has also directly reached financial regulators, practitioners and journalists.  Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, contributed an essay to the catalogue for Show me the Money, engaging with how art can represent financial trust in the aftermath of crisis. Marsh also held workshops for finance professionals that uses art, history and language to explore the assumptions and practices of the sector, especially regarding gender.

Additionally, there has been a long-standing collaboration with the Library of Mistakes – a reference and training resource for finance professionals – to develop a new archive of financial advice books accompanied by an annotated and illustrated Finder’s Guide.

Related projects:

An article promoting the launch of the FutureLearn MOOC (Understanding Money: The History of Finance, Speculation, and the Stock Market)

An article promoting the launch of the Show me the Money exhibition in Sunderland in 2014

Key Publications

Professor Nicky Marsh  

Professor Peter Knight 

Dr Paul Crosthwaite 

Dr Helen Paul

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