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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

On the Set with Tesla: Handling an Inventor

September 24, 2015 Innovation Impact


In a typical day at The Henry Ford I find myself answering patron questions or assisting with research. Then, there’s the not-so-typical day when I’m coordinating and work on the Special Access team.

stephanie-artifactJuly 13, 2015, was one of those not-so-typical days. I found myself face to face with someone people may call one of the most fascinating inventors in history, Nikola Tesla. You might be asking, how does one find herself in this position? Well, let me show you.

The Special Access Program is designed to allow for closer examination of artifacts in storage, access to artifacts beyond visitor barriers, or filming behind the scenes at The Henry Ford. It allows patrons (film crews, enthusiasts, model makers, etc.) access to our collections that can’t be accommodated in the usual ways such as viewing exhibits and items on display, searching collections online, or viewing material in the public reading room.

In fact, the artifacts from the collection are some of the biggest stars of our television show, The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, so the Special Access team is very busy during filming. The first episode of season 2 – filmed in part on this day in July – features the work of Nikola Tesla. I brought several objects to “center stage” for the shoot, including the death mask of Nikola Tesla, shown above. I worked with our Exhibits team to move the electroplated copper mask and its beautifully designed pedestal (which together weigh more than 50 pounds!) from a case in the Made in America exhibition to a sturdy table. It joined several objects that I had moved temporarily from collections storage to the museum for filming:

If you find these intriguing, you may be interested in viewing more Tesla-related objects from the collections of The Henry Ford online.

Marc Greuther and Mo Rocca examine objects related to Nikola Tesla during filming of "The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation."

Not many people can say that they’ve held history in their hands, let alone prepared it for national television. I consider it both an honor and a privilege to handle one-of-a-kind artifacts – and I’m thankful for my careful hands!

Stephanie Lucas is Research Specialist and Special Access Coordinator for The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation.

collections care, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford, by Stephanie Lucas, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation, inventors

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