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Good For Kids
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quite a few cars too, both older and newer
The Henry Ford
Closest available address
20900 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn, MI 48124
Open 9:30-5:00 all week
Best time to visit
Summer, Fall, Spring
The Henry Ford is an expansive facility comprised of the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, and a tour of a Ford Motor Company production facility. There also are restaurants, movies and a prep school. The museum’s collection and exhibits are a reflection of Henry Ford’s interests in history, collecting and education. While the museum is primarily based on technology, there are also displays on popular culture and social change. The village contains historic homes and buildings, and living history exhibits such as a working farm and crafts.
Henry Ford opened the museum originally as the Edison Institute in 1929. It initially was founded as an educational facility and later in 1933 became a museum open to the general public. The themes and collections of the museum were heavily influenced by Ford who wanted to exhibit practical technologies and innovations which contributed to the nation’s development and growth. Henry Ford himself was a prime catalyst for change stemming from his design and engineering work in the automobile industry. In 1908, his company introduced the Model T, which made cars affordable for the masses at a time when most cars were owned by the affluent. Ford’s automotive business generated great wealth and enabled him to pursue other interests such as education and collecting.
Depending on your interests and how much you like to learn, you should consider spending two days for a visit. You may not need the entire time, but to see everything well in one day would not be possible unless you just skim the displays which would not provide much insight.
Of the primary exhibits, most people will find the museum itself to be of greatest interest. The collection here is vast and varied ranging from railroad cars, industrial equipment, dollhouses, automobiles, firearms, furniture and more. If it sounds extensive, it is. Some of the more popular and notable exhibits included presidential limousines, early airplanes, cultural trends and collectables from the twentieth century and a fascinating house called the Dymaxion House constructed after World War II and the only one of its kind in existence.
The Ford Rogue Factory Tour, which is in a working production facility that produces Ford trucks, is also worth a visit. It includes a couple of introductory films that review the development of the facility and the work involved in producing a truck. The highlight of the tour is watching the production line in action from an elevated walkway. Interpretive staff are on hand at several stops to explain the process. If you are interested in cars and trucks, this is an excellent opportunity to see how they are produced.
As for the Greenfield Village, it includes 83 historic homes and buildings situated over 90 acres. While history is the main theme, there are a variety of buildings, such as a recreated Thomas Edison laboratory, Ford’s boyhood home, a historic windmill, a train depot and a replica train roundhouse. Another section exhibits traditional crafts such as glassmaking, pottery, a blacksmith, a printer, mills and a weaver. The village seems like Disney World in the sense that it’s more like a pseudo history than actual history. This is not to say that there are not actual historical homes and buildings, just that they are all so carefully arranged and displayed as to feel slightly inauthentic and also out of place since they were moved here. Kids will find the village of interest as they can see farm animals and ride historic trains and cars.
For a $50 price tag, this museum is by no means cheap, but it does provide a lot of value in return, especially if you are interested in history, and a collection with one-of-a-kind displays. The museum and village were crowded even in the “off-season” of early October so it likely gets packed here in the summertime. It’s definitely a novel place though and a visit is recommended when in the area. Note to check the museum’s website for a list of special events before your visit so you can plan ahead.
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