WHY A MUSEUM?
The Banco di Napoli Historical Archives contains several centuries of documents regarding the activities of the ancient public banks of the city. It is the most important historical bank archives in the world, and it houses very rare original documents dating back to the second half of the 1500s.
There are the credit certificates, which were precursors of the our modern cashier’s checks; the large ledgers, which were accurate entries of deposits and withdrawals for each account; and the ledgers listing the names of bank clients, all of which give us more than just an economic picture of ancient Naples: they offer an impressively broad overview of the city over time. We can enjoy a lively, evolving image of Naples from its tormented existence under the Spanish Viceroys to the most recent events of contemporary history. The absolute peculiarity of this vast economic documentation lies in the clarity and exhaustiveness of what we would today call the entries called the “reason for payment”.
These handwritten stories, which were included on these credit certificates, specified the details of why each particular payment was being made. After all of these centuries, we can discover new information about works produced by illustrious artists, unusual aspects of daily economic transactions, and hundreds of thousands of personal stories involving famous or unknown figures. Five hundred years and nearly seventeen million names tell their stories of payments made for the most diverse possible reasons, and they are all written on the margins of every payment certificate in the evocative antique calligraphy of the bank employees in charge of transcribing the balance sheets and the reasons for payment.
The patrimony of information in the archives is a unique historical and cultural asset which enables us to dig deeper into the history of the various treasures found in Naples. Thanks to the quality and the quantity of the documents found in these archives, we can provide an original way to present it to the wider public. These were the considerations which gave rise to the project called “ilCartastorie Museo Archivio Storico Banco di Napoli”.