A light slate made of teak wood and marked by neat rows of circular indentations was once upon a time an invaluable piece of equipment to calculate the wealth coming and leaving the coffers.
Officers of the royal treasury would pour coins of the same denomination upon the slab, shake off the extras, and see that each niche is occupied by a coin. Depending on the numbers of gaps, a precise estimation on the currency value could thus be made.
It sounds alien at a time when technology is changing by the minute but the simple ingenuity of the ‘Naanaya palaka’, used during the early 20 century, is remarkable.
Several such planks are on display at the Kanakakkunnu Palace, where an exhibition is being held as part of the golden jubilee celebrations of the State Treasury Department. It was officially formed in 1963, but the exhibits showcase a rich history on currency dating back to over a century.
From ornate brass balances to yellowing parchments that mark a significant turn in the history of the State’s treasure chest, this exhibition opens a brief window of opportunity for the public to see these otherwise carefully concealed objects.
Tables at the exhibition are laid with objects that look as though they belong to a heritage museum. Along with tokens, coins, weights and balances, old books such as the Cochin Income Tax Manual, Cochin Audit Code, Stamp Manual and Treasury and Pension Codes dating back over 50 years are also on display.
Most of the pieces have not changed hands with the Archives Department; rather they still remain in the treasury offices spread across the State.
Among the draws of the exhibition is the ‘Comptometer’, ancestor of the present-day digital calculator. A variant of the typewriter, the key-driven devices on display all have the place of manufacturing marked as the United States.
Newer versions of the calculator, manufactured by Keltron over 30 years ago, denote the technological progress the State has made in counting currency. Finance Minister K.M. Mani notes this advancement in his inaugural address, saying the developments made in the field are astounding.
The Archives Department has contributed to the exhibition, as they are in possession of age-old documents that sanctions key events such as the 1954 opening of the Small Coin Department in the Thiruvananthapuram District Treasury and an 1871 parchment that has been labelled as the correspondence relating to the use of British copper coins at the Quilon Treasury. The exhibition will also have seminars and discussions that will address the grievances of department employees. It will conclude on August 23.