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Academic Experiences

On Friday, February 2, Mrs. Konopka's AP World History class visited The Morgan Library in Manhattan to study the effects of the rising monetary economy that transformed every aspect of late medieval European society, including its values and culture. 
Medieval Europe witnessed an economic revolution: trade was conducted on an unprecedented scale, banks were established, and coin production surged. The expanding role of money in daily life sparked ethical and theological debates as individuals reflected on fluctuating markets, disparities in wealth, personal conduct, and morality. 
Students viewed the manuscript illuminations, sculptures, panel paintings, and illustrations in printed books of the Morgan Library that reflected and reinforced the complex ethical discussions that developed from the widespread role of money in everyday life.  Students studied how medieval art sheds light on greed, charity, economic inequality, and money management, all topics that are just as relevant today.  
The exhibition is the first to examine the economic revolution in medieval Europe and to chart the expanding role and perception of money during that period. Anchored around some of the Morgan’s most acclaimed medieval manuscripts, it critically recontextualizes items from the collection as well as other exceptional objects.
This installation brings together the Morgan’s illuminated manuscripts with paintings and other loans, including a brass alms box, a wealth of medieval coins, a purse, and a formidable strongbox, to reveal the complex ways people conceived of money during this time of rapid economic change. 
Medieval Money, Merchants, and Morality dramatizes a struggle that followed the rise of capitalism in the Middle Ages: Would you rather have your money or your eternal life? Hieronymus Bosch’s famous painting Death and the Miser, which opens the exhibition, shows a man confronting this very question on his deathbed, as a demon offers him a money bag while an angel urges him to turn to God. The display reveals the tension between material gain and spiritual fulfillment, between the desire to succeed in business and accumulate wealth, and Christian ideals of poverty and charity.
Students also had an opportunity to view the Gutenberg Bible.  The Morgan is the only institution in the world to possess three copies of the Gutenberg Bible, the first substantial book printed from moveable type in the West.