Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

In 1974 construction of the Main Street and Suwanee Stations was completed and operational for the season. Main Street was a covered platform intended to provide train access for guests near Greenfield Village’s entrance (Main Street, which was the road leading from the Greenfield Village entrance in that period is what we now call State Street). The third stop near Riverfront Street was a covered platform that facilitated guest access to the new Suwanee Park. Probably because of its close proximity to the new stations, the Smiths Creek Station was no longer used as a train stop.

A fourth train platform near “Gate 14” (or Windmill Gate) was removed from the plan just as overall Greenfield Village construction started.

As a part of the original planning for the perimeter railroad, a facility for maintaining and storing the locomotives was included. This building had been strongly recommended in a report generated by the consulting firm that was contracted to provide a risk assessment and analysis for the new railroad. Interestingly, the main issue in the report was preventing guest access to the locomotive during the off-season as well as maintenance issues.

The Train Shed was built in 1974 and located by the Village entrance gate. In 2000 train maintenance was shifted to the DT&M Roundhouse and the building now houses the Antique Vehicles Garage.

The Train Maintenance building was completed in October of 1974 and for the first time an on-site facility was available for maintenance work and winter storage of the locomotives. From 1974 to 1982, all train maintenance and repair was handled or directed by the Edison Institute Plumbing Shop Supervisor, Ralph Schumberger (a licensed plumber and boiler engineer).

In 1982, John Scott, a recognized train maintenance expert (who had been working with the Illinois Railroad Museum) was hired to exclusively supervise maintenance of Greenfield Village’s locomotives and rolling stock.

The train crew at this facility tackled more than normal maintenance. Two of the early restoration projects Scott and his crew handled were the reconversion of the two locomotives to coal; the Edison in 1986 and the Torch Lake in 1987.

In early 1990 a study was made to establish if the Torch Lake cab was in fact the one installed by C&H in their 1909/10 rebuild. This investigation included Tom Fisher, from Train Operations, going to Michigan Technical University to review the drawings from C&H (Union Oil had bought up all property rights for the C&H and had donated all the records to Michigan Technical University). The research concluded that it was the 1910 cab. A replacement cab, of the same configuration, was ordered from an outside supplier. At the same time a new smoke stack was built in the shop and the water tank was modified to reflect the 1909/10 configuration.

The new cab was a disappointment. Substandard material was used in the construction and serious deterioration began to appear within a few years. In 2001 Train Operations began making drawings for a new cab. In 2006 a major reconstruction of the cab began at the Roundhouse. Train Operations personnel, with Bill Town and Kirk Brosch of the Carpenter Shop, began rebuilding the cab with appropriate materials. The now-new cab was installed in 2007 and remains in service.

Through the years other aesthetic and functional changes were made to the locomotives and rolling stock to improve their reliability and authenticity. One of the original passenger cars was sold after finding that the company that had rebuilt the car but had left a section of badly deteriorated wood frame underneath some newly added structure.

The adding of the new train stations was not without incident. When the Main Street Station was first completed a trial run was made to check clearances and step-up height. As the locomotive pulled into the station, it was quickly discovered that there was insufficient clearance as pieces of the platform deck began flying across the station.

Gate 14 (now Orange Gate) was finally constructed. The new Susquehanna Station was constructed in that area to provide more convenient guest access to the historic homes on Maple Lane (In 1974 Maple Lane was known as South Dearborn Road), historic base ball games and other events at Walnut Grove.

In 1998, the Riverfront Street (Suwanee Park) Station was being converted to 11th and 12th grade classrooms for the new Henry Ford Academy and was no longer used as a train stop. The train stops for the Perimeter Railroad were now Main Street Station, Susquehanna Station and Smiths Creek Station.

Don LaCombe is Supervisor of Transportation and Crafts Programs

railroads, trains

Located in the front of Henry Ford Museum is Anderson Theater. The theater plays a variety of roles today, from a space for presentations to wedding ceremonies. Regular visitors might be familiar with the theater, but here’s a bit of Anderson Theater production history.

Anderson Theater
A 1967 "Cinderella" ticket (EI.224.5).

Originally named the Henry Ford Museum Theater, it was built in 1929. Since the opening of the museum drama has been performed on Anderson’s stage, first done by the Edison Institute students. A professional theater program began in 1964 under the direction of Ted Payne.

In September of 1965, Joseph French took over the theater department and became the new producer, a position he held until the program ended in 1995. The first actual production was during the holidays in 1965 – “Rip Van Winkle.” An annual Easter production began in 1972 and ran through 1982. Finishing out the 1970s, the American comedy series began in 1976. The first full subscription season of evening shows (and select matinees) began in 1978 and ran through December 1995. Holiday plays ended at the end of December, 2004.

Witching Hour PlaybillThe theater was renovated in 1994 and re-named the Sally and Wendell Anderson Theater because of their generous donation to the theater. (Sally and Wendell were long supporters of The Henry Ford. Wendell served on our board of trustees from 1982-1993.) This renovation provided the theater with refurbish restrooms, developed the dressing rooms, along with new carpet, and upholstery for the seats.

The first play that was held after Anderson Theater was re-opened was “The Witching Hour”

Today Anderson is a popular spot for wedding ceremonies at The Henry Ford thanks to the stage and theater-style seating. A fun trend we’ve seen from couples from time to time is to turn Anderson Theater wedding invitations into tickets or playbills to celebrate the theater’s history. After all, as the history of Anderson Theater will tell you, the play's the thing!

Aileen Lessnau is a Social Event Specialist at The Henry Ford

acting, plays

In honor of Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday and our Day of Courage celebration earlier this year, the education team at The Henry Ford developed a special educational activity book for children that focuses on social innovation and how the civil rights pioneer took a stand against injustice. Writing and designing the book “Be an Innovator Like…Rosa Parks,” gave us an opportunity to learn more about Rosa Parks and extend the legacy she left on our country.

To prepare ourselves for writing the book, we read about Rosa’s family, especially her grandfather, who instilled a sense of pride in her, and her husband Raymond, who encouraged her to fight for equality. We researched the many other individuals who challenged segregations laws on buses in the South. And we looked into other social innovators who were inspired by Rosa Parks, like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. When we finally sat down to write, we knew we wanted to make Rosa Parks relatable to young students through this book, to show them that they can do extraordinary things, too.

Rosa Parks Bus

In order for the book to stand out from other activity books on the shelf we designed it to be shaped like the real Rosa Parks bus on display inside Henry Ford Museum. The book, which is geared towards children in grades K-5, uses the “learning by doing” strategy and is broken down into fun activities that teach children milestone historic events in the life of Rosa Parks, and other past and present social innovators. The book includes colorful photographs from our collections, vocabulary building and mapping activities, and creative visualization and writing opportunities.

This activity book is the second in a series of innovation-themed children’s activity books. The first book in the series on Henry Ford became extremely popular last year among teachers and students nationwide.

“Rosa Parks’ story is such an inspiration for children,” said Paula Gangopadhyay, Chief Learning Officer for The Henry Ford. “The book is filled with critical information around Rosa Parks’ life and the iconic bus, but it is packaged in a kid-friendly format which will make learning fun.”

The book is aligned to Michigan and National Curriculum Standards, including the Common Core, and can be used in the classroom or at home. We know that social innovation is a complex topic for children, but it was our hope to inspire young readers to think about how they can make a difference in their own life, and how that difference could someday change the world.

You can purchase the book in any of the museum stores or through our online gift shop. We’re also offering a special discount if you buy 20 or more books together, which is great for teachers and youth service providers!

By Erin Milbeck Wilcox

Civil Rights

Walk into Greenfield Village and 300 years of American history is in motion. Model Ts chug along the streets, the smells of open-hearth cooking and canning fill the air at working century-old farmhouses, Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory and the Wright Brothers Cycle Shop are charged with activity and excitement. And all are waiting for you to step inside, make yourself welcome and experience longtime traditions.

In one quiet corner sits Cohen Millinery, moved to Greenfield Village from its original location in Detroit, Michigan’s Corktown, where it was operated in the 1890s by Mrs. “D.” Elizabeth Cohen. The young widow lived upstairs and supported her four children by selling “fancy goods, dry goods and gents’ furnishings” on the first floor. Cohen became best known, however, for her fabulous hats, which she bought wholesale and trimmed with a wide assortment of silk flowers, colorful ribbons, feathers and even whole stuffed birds.

Thanks to celebrities such as Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, more and more women are experimenting with hats again. But for ladies in the late 1800s, hats weren’t optional accessories worn for fun. A respectable woman never left home without one — the more frills, the better.

“The more you had on your hat, the wealthier you were thought to be,” said Greenfield Village historic presenter Anora Zeiler, one of seven milliners working at Cohen Millinery today.

Greenfield Village guests visiting the charming shop can browse a colorful array of authentic antique hats and other accessories, such as ornate hair combs and hatpins, delicate ladies’ gloves, and men’s suspenders and ties. They can also chat with the milliners — all dressed in period costume — as they layer a variety of adornments on felt or straw hats, always keeping with the style of the 1880s and 1890s.

“We sew on each piece separately and in the proper order, careful to hide the stitches,” Zeiler said.

Last year, Cohen Millinery brought another part of history forward to the current day, allowing visitors to not only admire the milliners at work and the headwear on the shelves but to purchase handmade beauties on site as ladies did more than a century ago. Each properly packaged in period hatboxes tied with bows.

“We’re making hats in style again,” said Zeiler proudly.

fashion, hats, Mrs. Cohen

I got excited when I learned a playscape was in the works at Greenfield Village.

Actually, at first, I got a little nervous.

I couldn’t picture the typical playscape situated anywhere in the landscape of Greenfield Village. When I learned the overall theme suggests a 1920s-era construction site, I was definitely intrigued.

Then, I saw the location – which is ideally situated behind the carousel, near a restroom and in close proximity to food and the Smith’s Creek Depot. It’s a perfect spot for a respite. Oh, and it’s fenced in, allowing a safe play area and a more relaxing experience for the adults minding their children there.

So last week, I was thrilled when I learned from The Henry Ford’s president, Patricia Mooradian, the plan does not include the trademark red or yellow fiberglass slide familiar to playgrounds, but it does include the opportunity for children to play and explore some real artifacts, including a boardable 1931 Ford Model AA truck and a 20-foot-long boiler tunnel that originally sat near the Armington and Sims Machine Shop inside the village.

Greenfield Village's New PlayscapeThat just reinforced what I already know: That even when it comes to adding a contemporary feature like a playscape – The Henry Ford is all about guests experiencing history in a unique way. The playscape provides another opportunity – this time directed at children – to climb right inside a piece of history. (Think about taking a seat inside the Rosa Parks Bus, a tour of the Dymaxion House, a visit to the Wright Brothers’ shop, and eating a meal Lamy’s Diner – you get the picture). The playscape gives children access to artifacts in a way that is meaningful for them – with the added bonus of a spot to run off some steam. (Which I so gladly welcome.)

I thought: Nice, that really takes the cake.

That is, until I learned that the new playscape is carefully designed for enjoyment by children of all abilities, and most of the activities are ground-level accessible or accessible by ramp. There are varying sculptural swings so all children – whether fully-able or without full control of their arms and legs – may enjoy them.

“We hope that this playscape can serve as a model for others to become more aware and more willing to adopt design principles that address the interest and needs of people, especially children, of all abilities,” Patricia told guests at the groundbreaking ceremony.

A little ceremonial dirt throwing and the groundbreaking is official! The playscape will open to guests in early fall. In the photo left to right: The Henry Ford’s chairman of the board, Evan Weiner; Dearborn mayor John O’Reilly; Don and Mary Koch, and Patricia Mooradian.

This playscape and The Henry Ford’s recent partnership with Autism Awareness Alliance of Michigan, are examples of forward thinking that continue to honor Henry Ford - the man – while realizing the institution’s mission: to provide unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives from America's traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation.

I love that through these two initiatives, The Henry Ford goes beyond addressing challenges of just accessibility for visitors all abilities – but keeps focused on its purpose – which is to inspire them for a better future.

The new playscape is made possible thanks to the generosity of Don and Mary Koch. Here they are pictured with their littlest grandson and daughter-in-law Katherine

I know I’m inspired – yet again – and I can’t wait for my little ones try it out.

Related: Greenfield Village Breaks New Ground on Children's Playscape


Anyone who has visited Greenfield Village’s 80 acres knows that there’s a lot to see and do during any given visit. Despite having numerous open spaces throughout Greenfield Village, guests have asked us for a safe, contained space that offers children a chance to run and play while parents take a minute to relax and enjoy their surroundings. We heard you loud and clear – we needed a play area for our younger visitors.

A while back, The Henry Ford began exploring what a playscape might look like in Greenfield Village. Thanks to an early planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, our teams were able to explore a design for the area. Designing a playground for an open-air museum provided a bit of a challenge – it needed to be historically themed, for one thing. We also wanted to make sure that the playscape offered endless amounts of fun and lots of challenges as children played, no matter their abilities.

Today we’re pleased to break ground on our Greenfield Village Playscape. Thanks to a generous donation from long-time Dearborn residents and dear friends of The Henry Ford, Mary and Don Kosch, our playscape will be ready for guests to enjoy this fall. What we came up with is a construction-like setting featuring both artifacts and state-of-the-art playground equipment. Located behind the Herschell-Spillman carousel, the playscape’s home is a natural fit for that area of Greenfield Village; on any given day we see families relaxing there, enjoying a snack, or getting ready for another ride on the carousel.

What will you find inside the playscape? Quite a bit! Features include:

  • a water tower
  • sculptural swings
  • water feature with tanks
  • sluice and hand-pumps
  • climbing wall
  • work building; work tables
  • tool fence
  • boardable 1931 Model AA truck
  • boiler tunnel
  • large platform seesaw
  • gear climber
  • tot slide
  • interactive boiler sculpture
  • cement mixer
  • Because we wanted our new playscape to be enjoyed by all, most of the activities are ground-level accessible or accessible by ramp. The area is fenced in with ramp accessibility. Our sculptural swings vary in design so that all children, whether fully-able or without full control of their arms and legs, may enjoy them.

    Moving the boiler tunnel over to the playscape construction area.

    Will our playscape look like other playscapes in parks or at schools? No. Our playscape will have an authentic, era-appropriate look that will fit right into Greenfield Village’s backdrop.

    We can’t wait for children to enjoy the playscape later this year. While we’re looking forward to seeing all of the great memories made season after season, we’re also hoping that our commitment to creating an all-ability environment will spread to other family destinations, too. Hopefully you agree.

    Make sure to follow along on Facebook this summer as we share updates on the playscape’s progress. The next time you visit Greenfield Village make sure to stop by the construction area to see what’s new.


    Today's post comes to us from Don LaCombe, our Supervisor of Transportation and Crafts Programs at The Henry Ford. Don has been documenting the history of all-things train-related at The Henry Ford. Over the next few weeks we'll be sharing his articles here on the blog.

    This 2-2-0 experimental, 40-inch electric locomotive, rail-car and track (pictured above) were constructed at Edison’s Menlo Park Complex in the spring of 1880. This pioneering effort in electric railways was an example of Edison’s entrepreneurial spirit and systemic outlook about the uses of electricity. This was the first functional American electric locomotive and represented an improvement in the state of the art.

    The primary purpose of this experiment was to find uses for his company’s electrical generation capacity during daylight hours when electrical illumination was generally not required.

    Edison’s venture was technically quite successful in that the train operated at 30 mph and was fully capable of carrying passengers. It was a well publicized success with significant mention in the June 5, 1880, Scientific American and other publications. The project also generated two new patents for Edison.

    The technical success and notoriety of the train produced an investor in the project. Henry Villard, president of the Northern Pacific Railroad, was interested enough to provide funds for Edison to continue his research. Villard saw the electric locomotive as a viable replacement for steam locomotives in areas where watering and maintenance were a problem.

    Experimentation continued with the addition of two new locomotives that were mechanically similar but visually changed to look more like traditional locomotives. The track was extended from the original half mile to a total of three miles with three sidings and two turntables.

    Northern Pacific’s participation ended when the railroad went into receivership and Villard lost control of the company.

    In 1883 Edison merged with rival Stephen D. Field and they exhibited a locomotive and train at a railway exhibition in Chicago. During the exposition Edison had set up a short demonstration railway and the train carried more than 26,000 riders.

    This joint venture eventually dissolved, and Edison lost interest in electric railroads and concentrated on other projects.

    Edison's Pullman Car

    The train and cars were abandoned at the Menlo Park Complex when Edison moved out. They were later discovered under significant overgrowth and rescued by the “Edison Pioneers.” The date of the recovery is not known but the locomotive and “Pullman” car appear in the 1925 Pioneers’ Historical Collection of Early Electrical Apparatus. In 1929 the locomotive and car were gifted to The Edison Institute.

    Ford had Edison’s electric locomotive, a “Pullman ” car and an additional passenger car restored. Sometime in 1930 a short railway was constructed in the Village. The route went from the Menlo Complex to behind the Logan County Courthouse.

    Greenfield Village's First Railroad

    It is likely that Francis Jehl, who had worked with Edison on the project before working here, was the only engineer. The picture, shown above, is of Jehl in the locomotive giving a ride to approximately 20 people. A note on the corner of the picture lists the date as Aug. 1, 1930. The relative age of the passengers pictured in the cars suggests these were probably Edison Institute students.

    Geoffrey C. Upward's book A Home for Our Heritage (p. 87) mentions that the “train ran for a few years.” In all likelihood, the cessation of the railroad had to do with the train being powered by a 10 hp 110 volt, 75 amp electric motor. The power was supplied by two Edison Z-type dynamos and transmitted through the rails. The locomotives wheels were wood with steel tires. This insulated the engineer and passengers from the tracks while current for the motor was picked up by copper brushes contacting a pick-up ring  attached to the steel tires.

    In 1930, when the restored train first became functional, Greenfield Village was not open to the general public. In 1933 Greenfield Village was opened to the general public and the potential for an accidental “shock” probably caused them to reconsider use of the train.

    In the early 1950s a red train shed was constructed across the street (Christie) from the Menlo Complex to provide a place for a static display of Edison’s original electric locomotive. A glass barrier was installed to allow guests to see the train without being able to touch it. The train was displayed setting on an original section of track. The red building is now located at the north east corner of the Armington and Sims yard and is used to house Greenfield Village electrical equipment.

    The locomotive and two cars are still in The Henry Ford's archives.

    Edison, locomotives, trains

    “Was Henry Ford’s father unhappy that Henry didn’t become a farmer? Did they get along?”

    A few years back, my friend Regina stood in the Ford Home and asked that question to the uniformed presenter. We were on a homeschooling field trip with our children.

    As many times as I’d been to Greenfield Village, I’d never considered that kind of relationship question. I had a tendency to be fascinated with the stuff – the artifacts, the décor, the period clothing, etc. I was a little surprised with the question, but even more surprised by the detail of presenter’s reply. It was a weekday, and the home wasn’t very busy, so this gentleman graciously took the time to share with us some really interesting insights and stories. That question charged my curiosity to look beyond what I was seeing, and the presenter’s deep knowledge and ability to weave a story transformed how I experienced The Henry Ford.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    So, who are these presenters?

    To begin with, they aren’t only the people wearing period attire. In addition to those clad in the clothes of the past, uniformed presenters drive Model Ts, carriages and other historic transportation; they operate the carousel and work throughout the village, museum and Ford Rouge Factory Tour in a multitude of capacities. They are the working storytellers who help make the artifacts and objects at The Henry Ford come alive – a key element to turning a visit into an inspirational experience.

    Presenter at Greenfield Village

    “Presenters are an all part-time staff of highly committed, highly educated people,” Jim Van Bochove, The Henry Ford’s director of workforce development told me. They may be college students, teachers, retired professionals or someone who comes to the position with a different background or interest that fits the role. “It’s a unique position, and some people are willing to travel quite a distance to dedicate their time to being a presenter here.” He also said the presenter staff is extremely loyal, and there’s not a lot of turnover. (I’d sure say so. There's a presenter who has been with The Henry Ford for 55 years.)

    New presenters and all staff for that matter – service, administrative, volunteer, intern, and executive – start their career at The Henry Ford with a daylong program called Traditions, Vision and Values. It’s a busy season for the training as Greenfield Village’s April 15 opening day approaches.

    “It’s up to the all of our colleagues here to deliver The Henry Ford experience to our guests,” Jim said. The TVV training, as they call it, is where they learn about the history, culture and vision of the institution. I caught some of it, and it was a pretty lively time – appropriate for working at such a dynamic place.

    The Henry Ford

    This group is enjoying an early March TVV program. Some of the participants are assigned as presenters in one of the seven districts in Greenfield Village such as Working Farms or Edison at Work.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    Above, Tim Johnson and Meg Anderson from The Henry Ford’s workforce development department engage new staff. You can see that Henry Ford himself remains an important part of the training.

    After this training, presenters go through a day of hospitality training. Then they attend two days of basic presenter training to learn storytelling techniques, engage in role playing, make presentations on newly learned material, and benefit from the constructive comments from other new and experienced presenters.

    After the general training, presenters move on to hands-on instruction by their managers, supervisors and site leaders depending on where they will be assigned. Kathie Flack, training and event logistics manager, explained to me that by assigning presenters to specific districts, they have more of an opportunity to really become experts in their area.

    Since most new presenters this time of year are gearing up for work assignments in Greenfield Village, they might be instructed on how to start and maintain a fire or cook using a wood burning stove. They may attend Model T driving school or learn to milk a cow, harness a horse, operate a plow, or make candles or pumpkin ale. During this time, they’ll also get some of the details regarding the logistics of working at their assigned venue.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    At the William Ford barn, I looked on as an experienced presenter and carriage driver instructed a new presenter in harnessing a horse. It looked pretty complicated to me, but Ryan Spencer, manager of Firestone Farm, assured me that after some practice, it only takes one person five minutes to collar, harness and hitch a team of two horses to a carriage.

    Before she can drive visitors, she’ll have to pass certification which includes 50 hours of guided training and passing a driving test with 100-percent.

    “It’s pretty involved,” Ryan said. “The driver has to be prepared, and the team has to be confident with the driver. She also has to be able to get out of uncomfortable situations and to anticipate certain others.”

    In addition to all the horse-related training necessary, new drivers have to pass a tour test and a written test – also with a perfect score.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    The new presenter (on the right) spent the day at Firestone Farm learning about chores in the house and barn. In the photo above, he’s examining the grooves from the pit saw used to cut the white oak into lumber when the Firestone’s built the barn in about 1830. He will most likely be horse trained next winter season. “There’s a lot of other work to learn at the farm first,” Ryan said.

    In addition to the specific presenter training, there’s getting dressed for the job. The clothing studio outfits all workers who encounter guests at The Henry Ford – whether it is in a uniform or period-specific gear.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    This presenter stands for a final fitting of a new custom ensemble as a seamstress inspects. Tracy Donohue, the manager of the clothing studio said they make most all elements of period attire, with the exception of a few foundational garments such as corsets. Uniforms are also purchased in pieces, but all are tailored for each wearer.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    The studio works with curators and available historic resources to fit presenters with the most accurate period clothing. There are often multiple fittings. Tracy said that depending on the detail and the pattern challenges, there might be as many as 80 hours of work put in making one dress.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    I have to say, the studio storage warehouse is a pretty spectacular place – with aisles and aisles of period clothing, historically accurate fabrics and accessories, and the fantastic costumes for special events like the Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village and Holiday Nights.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    Tracy told me the studio has a very comprehensive cataloging system since it inventories close to 50,000 items.

    Once presenters are trained, outfitted and equipped with the key elements of the stories they’ll tell, and after they gain a little experience, they can really dig in to learn more by visiting the reading room at the Benson Ford Research Center.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    The green binders above are filled with detailed information and interesting facts specific to the buildings and artifacts; community and domestic life, and customs and historic practices of the time periods represented in Greenfield Village.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    Presenters (and visitors for that matter) may also access some primary source materials associated with each building, including its move to Greenfield Village. The photo on the right is of the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop in its original location, before Henry Ford had it moved to the village from 1127 West Third St. in Dayton, Ohio, in 1937.

    It’s no doubt the people who become presenters at The Henry Ford are there because they want to be there. They’re eager to delve into more of the details and history and share it because they understand Henry Ford’s original vision and want to inspire visitors to learn from the traditions of the past to make a better future.

    Presenters at Greenfield Village

    I love this photo I took a couple years ago. This presenter was pleased (and relieved) with her successful first experience making grape preserves.

    actors, Behind The Scenes

    Culture Lab Detroit is a catalyst for conversations and collaborations between Detroit's artists, designers, innovators, technologists and the larger design world. In other words Culture Lab Detroit was designed for all of us.

    Two years ago I attended an exhibition in Paris that examined the importance of the relationship between nature, culture, business, and the social fabric within a city. The exhibit began with a look at how a 16th century Spanish city was designed to incorporate and encourage creativity and growth and it ended by asking the same questions of a modern city. What are the ingredients of a thriving city and how to fill its spaces.

    The exhibit was called The Fertile City. And that modern day city it examined was Detroit.

    It was astonishing to travel to a European museum to see an exhibit that focused so heavily on the struggles of Detroit. But I soon realized it was fitting that anyone looking at the effects of a damaged urban landscape in the 21st century would study Detroit. We have so many open uncertain spaces, and yet so many assets, so much ripe potential.

    Some of those open spaces are geographic. Some are economic. Some are social. But the thing is that's all changing. Bit by bit, this city that has captured international attention is starting to fill its voids, recognizing them as assets in a way that is uniquely Detroit.

    Today's Detroit innovators are pioneers. Through their efforts they're carefully blazing the trail for a more culturally vibrant landscape. They are the new vanguard of Detroit. Each one is a piece of the puzzle - gardening here, sewing there, creating art over there. And hundreds more pieces have found a home at incubator sites like the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, the Russell Industrial Center, Ponyride or the Green Garage. These places give structure and a home to artists, innovators, entrepreneurs and technologists.

    This is a world-class town filled with world-class people. Culture Lab hopes to connect and inspire the best problem solvers in Detroit with world-class artists, innovators and thinkers internationally as a way to increase awareness and the imprint of Detroit's creative community around the globe.

    I hope you can join me in learning more about these new innovators and celebrating this surge of creativity and ideas on Thursday, April 18, at the College for Creative Studies for an evening of conversation and collaboration with my good friend David Stark. David is a world-renowned event designer, author, and installation artist. Joining David that evening will be Mark Binelli, Michael Rush, Toni Griffin, and Daniel Caudill. You can learn more about the event, hosted by Culture Lab Detroit, here.

    Jane Schulak is the founder of Culture Lab Detroit. Jane believes that by sharing these experiences this will increase the awareness and the imprint of Detroit's creative community internationally.

    art, design, Detroit

    Autism Alliance of MichiganLast week we were pleased to announce our partnership with the Autism Alliance of Michigan, a state-based agency dedicated to improving the lives of families with autism. Our goal every day at The Henry Ford is to make sure our guests have an outstanding experience while here on our campus, so calling out special information for guests with autism is something we’re very happy to do.

    Providing specialized information for guests’ needs isn’t new to us. We’re always looking to communities to tell us what would make their visit here even better. When we created large-scale maps to hand out on site, we worked with special groups to make sure the printed materials were beneficial to those with vision impairments.

    As part of our partnership with AAOM, resource guidelines are being created for families to review prior to their visit. Some of those guidelines will help guests with learning about our:

  • Environments and sensorial experiences
  • Dietary options
  • Areas for noise reduction
  • Hospitality services
  • Key members of our front-line staff will also be receiving training in basic aspects of autism. We’ll continue to meet with the AAOM to learn more about autism and improve our offerings for those guests.

    Whether you’re enjoying a walk around Greenfield Village or a visit inside Henry Ford Museum, The Henry Ford is a safe place for all families. Everyday our staff members continue to grow and learn how we can best serve the needs of all of our guests.

    We’re looking forward to growing our partnership with AAOM. Making all of our guests happy is what we do - it’s our job, and we’re proud to do it.

    Make sure to keep an eye on our “Visit” section of our website for links to AAOM in the coming weeks.