December 7th, 2011, was the National Day Against Foreclosure. Occupy Museums joined with Occupy 477 to build a model of the coop building at 477 W. 142nd Street in Harlem threatened with foreclosure and predatory lenders. We marched the model along a historic route, concluding at the Museum of American Finance (MoAF), where we offered the model of 477 as an artifact of how finance affects the everyday lives of the 99%. The Museum sent a security guard through their line of police to decline our offer, and promptly closed the museum during visiting hours. A week later, Occupy Museums and Occupy 477 sent a letter to the MoAF and its board of trustees reiterating our desire to donate the model to their collection. They accepted, and we are currently engaged in the acquisition process with their staff. A copy of the letter chain is here.
477 W. 142nd Street is a landmark building on Alexander Hamilton’s former estate. The building has served for decades as a residence for low-income families and been a key site of the black community in New York City. It just so happens that The Museum of Finance on Wall Street is housed in the former headquarters of the Bank of New York, founded by Alexander Hamilton—America’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton created the country’s financial system. Our march traced a route from Hamilton’s former estate to his burial place at Trinity Church, and finally to the Museum of American Finance, the site of his first bank.
We chose the Museum of American Finance for our destination and the eventual home of our model of 477 for several reasons. First, and most importantly, the Museum’s self-expressed mission is “to play a special role as a guardian of America’s collective financial memory, as well as a presenter and interpreter of current financial issues, thereby connecting the past with the present while serving as a guide for the future.” This makes the museum an ideal showcase for an artifact that evokes how every day citizens in America are being effected by current financial issues including the recession, rampant foreclosure, and predatory lending. Secondly, we choose to gift our model to the MoAF because its Board of Trustees includes several members of the 1%, many of whom are current or former Wall Street traders.