Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Water had dripped from the ceiling onto the right corners of the back and seat, leaving water stains with dark tidelines at the edges.

In August 2014, the metropolitan Detroit area experienced heavy rains and flooding, and several artifacts in Henry Ford Museum’s furniture display were damaged by water and debris. Two of the artifacts were upholstered, and required extensive conservation treatment to stabilize them and make them suitable for continued exhibit. A generous grant from The Americana Foundation enabled conservators to accomplish this work.

Our “Turkish Settee” is part of a suite of furniture dating from 1885-1895. Its elaborate original fabrics and trimmings are faded and somewhat fragile, but it makes an important statement about the style of the times, so preserving them is important. Continue Reading

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Something that may not be widely known outside the museum world is how much collaboration and cooperation goes on between cultural heritage institutions. As an example, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, was recently approached by the Petersen Automotive Museum about a 1952 Ferrari 212 Barchetta originally given to Henry Ford II by Enzo Ferrari, now in the collections of the Petersen. The Barchetta served as one of the design inspirations for the 1955 Ford Thunderbird, and was exhibited from time to time in the past at special car shows in Henry Ford Museum. When our staff dug into our archives, they found more than two dozen vintage photographs of the car, including this shot showing the sleek lines of the vehicle from the side. We provided these images to the Petersen, which will enhance their curation of this fine vehicle, and in addition have posted them to our digital collections for anyone to access and enjoy.

If you’d like to know more about the Barchetta, you can watch an interview with Petersen chief curator Leslie Kendall and a road test of the car in this episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, or you can check out all of our digitized Barchetta images by visiting our collections website.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

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We do a lot of preparatory research in our collections for each episode of our television series, The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation.  Sometimes, we find things that we weren’t expecting. That happened recently, when in investigating material related to food wagons, our registrar Lisa Korzetz recalled an image in our collection of a chuck wagon.  Accompanying the chuck wagon photo, we found about a dozen more photographs of the American West in the 19th century, many in the Wyoming Territory, taken by the Dalgliesh Photo Studio and given to The Henry Ford in 1930 by George Dalgliesh, one of the photographers.  The photos are an amazing record of everyday cowboy and ranch life in the West, so we’ve digitized all of them, including this image of the romantically named “Robbers Roost Road Ranch.” View all these newly digitized Western images by visiting our collections website.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Our Betty Belly Tank Lakester stands out among the Bonneville streamliners -- and portable speed shop -- at the 2015 Concours d'Elegance of America.

Concours d'Elegance automobile events seem to be popping up all over the country these days. More prestigious that standard car shows, these “competitions of elegance” generally feature automobiles that come by invitation only and include scrupulous judging by experts in automotive mechanics, design and history. We are fortunate to have a top-tier concours here in our own backyard: the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s, held in Plymouth, Michigan, each July.

Our 1928 Cleveland joined other two-wheelers in the motorcycle class.

This year’s show, on July 26, did not disappoint. More than 270 cars from as far away as California, Montana, Texas and Florida made their way to St. John’s to thrill visitors under perfectly sunny skies. As in the past, The Henry Ford was there -- this time with two vehicles from our collection. Tom Beatty’s 1951 Belly Tank Lakester had an honored place among the class of Bonneville Streamliners while our 1928 Cleveland 4-61 motorcycle joined a group of other bikes from 1918-1929. Both vehicles were much appreciated by the crowds -- particularly the Cleveland, which had not been on view for a few years. Continue Reading

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John Gunsolly operated what is now known as the Gunsolly Carding Mill in Plymouth, Michigan, beginning around 1850.  Henry Ford reportedly remembered childhood visits to the mill with his father, delivering wool, and in 1929 he moved the building to Greenfield Village.  We’ve just digitized 60 images of the building on its original site and throughout its history in the Village, like this one, showing power loom operation in the building (then called the Plymouth Carding Mill) in 1935.  Today, visitors to The Henry Ford can see traditional weaving in action in Liberty Craftworks’ Weaving Shop, itself a former cotton mill.  See more images of Gunsolly by visiting our digital collections.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Greenfield Village history, digital collections, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village

The Mothership at its home base in the North End of Detroit. Image courtesy of ONE Mile/akoaki.

At Maker Faire Detroit 2015, the “Mothership” will descend into The Henry Ford Museum. Created by the Detroit collaborative group, ONE Mile, the Mothership looks like a lunar lander, acts as a mobile DJ booth—but is also so much more. Kristen Gallerneaux, our Curator of Communications and Information Technology, caught up with the group to ask them a few questions about their project.

Can you explain what the Mothership is?

The Mothership is a Parliament-Funkadelic inspired mobile DJ booth, broadcast module, and urban marker designed to transmit cultural activity from Detroit’s epic North End. Channeling Ancient African material culture and Afrofuturist aesthetics, the deployable pod energizes underused sites, creates a sense of place, and helps signal that Detroit’s creative prowess is powerful and uninterrupted. But most simply it’s an object, one that people can identify with. Stationed without programming, it’s a mini-monument. Ajar and pulsating with music, it reveals a DJ and accompanies a broad spectrum of public events, performances, and community gatherings. Add smoke machines and colored lighting, and the Mothership creates the impression of having “just landed”. Continue Reading

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Curator of Public Life Donna Braden has used the phrase “bottomless pit of wonderfulness” to describe The Henry Ford’s collections, because they are so vast and so full of significant artifacts. One downside of the amazing quantity and quality of our holdings is that only a very small percentage are on display on our campus at any given time. However, we are often able to get some of these artifacts out of storage and on public display by loaning them to other museums and institutions. We currently have over 200 artifacts on loan, and about 60 of these can be viewed through our digital collections as well. One such item is this radiation portal monitor, used at Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant (Fermi 1), which is on loan to Monroe County Community College in Monroe, Mich., for an exhibit about the plant. See more artifacts related to Fermi 1 (a number of them also on loan), and view thousands of objects, documents, and photographs not currently on public display, by visiting our digital collections.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Copper corrosion on a typewriter ink reel.

Our IMLS Grant Conservation staff uses scientific and aesthetic training to conserve, clean and repair a large number of Communications collections. A familiar problem we often encounter is copper “rust” that disfigures objects. Conservators call these damages “corrosion products”. The corrosion is actually “eating” the metal as it forms on a range of object types. Copper corrosion products form on copper and copper alloys (like brass) through chemical reactions that are initiated by contact with various materials nearby and from the air pollution. Nearby materials that corrosion include fatty acids in waxes and leather dressing, sulfur in rubber products, or salts in water or human sweat. Copper corrosion products vary greatly. They can be very waxy or hard and mineralized or soft and powdery, depending on what caused it. Continue Reading

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One of the most beloved areas of Greenfield Village just celebrated an anniversary: June 29, 2015, marked 30 years since Firestone Farm (both the farmhouse and the barn) was dedicated at The Henry Ford, with luminaries like Gerald Ford, seen here, speaking at the ceremony.  Built in 1828, this Ohio farmhouse was where businessman Harvey Firestone was brought up.  Today in Greenfield Village, it is a key living history destination, where visitors can see crops being grown, food preparation following 19th century methods, and livestock being raised.  As part of our continuing project to digitize material related to Village buildings, we’ve just digitized 185 images from our collections related to Firestone Farm—the cornerstone ceremony, the dedication, and over 100 images of the farm on its original site.  View all Firestone Farm–related items by visiting our collections website.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Jonathan Lewandowski holds up one of the first E.T. cartridges excavated from the Atari Tomb. Deb Lewandowski looks on. THF122249

Every year, as we plan for Maker Faire Detroit behind the scenes, The Henry Ford’s curators think about what items from their collections might be brought out for special display during the event. At this year’s Faire, a new acquisition will make its public debut—items retrieved from the infamous “Atari Tomb of 1983” in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

As any good folklorist will tell you, urban legends usually prove to be fabrications of truth that have gone awry and gained their own momentum, spread by word of mouth and media publicity. But sometimes—urban legends turn out to be true. In April 2014, excavations at the Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill unearthed every video game fan’s dream: physical evidence that the legend of the “Atari Video Game Burial” of 1983 was indeed a very real event. Continue Reading

events, Maker Faire Detroit, technology, by Kristen Gallerneaux, video games