Since the opening on March 27, 2021, of The Henry Ford's newest permanent exhibition, Driven to Win: Racing in America presented by General Motors, hundreds of guests have experienced the enthusiasm and excitement it creates in all who walk through its 24,000 square feet. Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO of The Henry Ford, explains that "motorsports and the Driven to Win exhibit fit precisely within the vision of The Henry Ford because the spirit of racing is indelibly intertwined with a singular focus on innovation and is rife with concrete examples of that can-do spirit, that attitude that's at the heart of America."
Driven to Win has been in the works for more than a decade. Many creative and innovative minds came together to make it a reality. When the idea of a permanent racing exhibit arose, it presented an opportunity to take the idea to those on a national platform. The Henry Ford sought advice and assistance from leaders in the world of motorsports, including Edsel B. Ford II, Jack Roush, and Roger Penske.
For Spence Medford, vice president and chief advancement officer at The Henry Ford, "It was more than just raising money for an exhibit; it was the opportunity to take the good word and message of The Henry Ford on the road. We were able to take our mission all over to different races and race tracks and introduce it to those who otherwise would never have heard of our mission had we not put this exhibit into motion." The national platform gave The Henry Ford a chance to also share our mission internationally and reach racing enthusiasts all over the world.
Driven to Win highlights the stories, artifacts, and people who were the driving forces and true champions of racing. By telling these stories, we hope to inspire the next generation of racers, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and racing fans. Everyone who comes to see the exhibition will be able to unlock their own potential in the stories of failures, successes, and the spirit of never giving up, told through the lives of the people who are highlighted.
Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of performance and motorsports for General Motors, agrees: "Driven to Win: Racing in America is inspiring because it tells the story of the people that were integral to the sport. The exhibit tells the story through actual race cars, artifacts, engines, and transmissions. We need to inspire more people to discover opportunities within racing, and this exhibit will do just that."
Lyn St. James, racing legend and official adviser to the exhibition, was excited to learn that we would be showcasing the vast history of all automotive racing groups within the United States. "I was so taken with the fact that this would be an opportunity to not just tell the history of Ford racing but the history of racing in America and how competition and innovation impact society. This exhibit will bring it to life in a quality way. It is an influencer of how people are going to perceive our sport."
Beth Paretta, CEO and team principal of Paretta Autosport, concurs: "I think taking time to go through a place like The Henry Ford that is rich in content allows you to take a pause. It gives you that moment to look at the past and hopefully see it in the context of when those events happened. We can learn lessons from winning and losing and what that turns into. The Henry Ford is such a great place to get ideas and spark imagination."
Everyone who comes to see Driven to Win will find something that inspires them. After walking through the exhibition, Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports, said, "I think that a lot of people who go through this display, even if they are not hard-core motorsports fans, a lot of the history is going to resonate with them. The things they didn't completely understand about the history of racing before will make sense when it is right in front of them. They will be able to connect to it, and that's not going to change."
The Henry Ford would like to extend our sincere gratitude and thanks to all those who helped make this exhibition a dream come true. To our sponsors—General Motors, Rolex, Brembo, and Multimatic—none of this would have been possible without your collaboration and efforts. We are very grateful for your partnerships. To all of our supporters and friends that have we gained along the way, you have truly helped to bring Driven to Win: Racing in America to life. Thank you for helping to fuel our passion and that of all those who will experience racing in America for generations to come.
For longtime supporters Luke Haase and Denis and Patty Bork, The Henry Ford is a treasure that has filled their lives with memories to last a lifetime. They chose to support The Henry Ford with planned gifts that will help inspire the next generation of innovators, thinkers, and doers.
When asked to share why The Henry Ford is important to him, Luke Haase was eager to tell us why he continues to support The Henry Ford after all these years. He started to come to The Henry Ford when he was just a child, and he can remember taking in all the sights and sounds that Greenfield Village and the museum offered.
When Luke was old enough, he applied for a job at The Henry Ford, which furthered his love of and interest in our rich history and collections. The time he spent visiting and working at The Henry Ford is something he will never forget.
"Now, decades later, I don't live nearby. Yet it's the connection to history that does it for me—to a different era of innovators and to my own childhood," he said. "I love to introduce it to others. It's my most special place."
Longtime supporters Denis and Patty Bork also have fond memories of The Henry Ford and love to visit whenever they can. At age 10, Denis took his first trip to Greenfield Village with his family. He remembers the very moment he spoke into the Edison phonograph at Menlo Park. Because of this experience, he decided to pursue a career in electrical engineering.
"That moment at Menlo Park haunted me even after retirement," he said. During a visit some 50 years later, Denis went back to Menlo Park and spoke with a presenter. "After telling the presenter my story, she brought out the phonograph, I spoke into it, and my career was finally complete," he said.
To this day Denis and his wife Patty say that they always learn something new even after many visits a year. For the Borks, The Henry Ford is "a great institution with values."
These are just a few stories from three donors who have decided to give back to The Henry Ford. Planned giving is a tax-friendly, creative, and flexible form of giving that can benefit you and the future of The Henry Ford.
When a planned gift is made, the donation goes to the general endowment of the institution, allowing it to pivot and apply the donation to where it is most needed. Planned gifts help The Henry Ford to whether storms and continue to acquire new artifacts so The Henry Ford stays relevant as a top destination for American history.
When you make a planned gift, you will be listed as a member in our Clara Bryant Ford Society, which was established to recognize those donors who have included The Henry Ford in their estates. Your gift will help The Henry Ford continue to inspire others to learn from America's traditions to help shape a better future.
To learn more about planned giving and our current opportunities, visit our website to see if this is right for you.
Detroit native Frederick Birkhill can recount numerous memories of his time at The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village as a child. He can remember riding his bike through the village, taking in all that its history and grounds offered. Truly enamored with Liberty Craftworks, he spent most of his time there, observing the artisans perfecting their crafts.
During one school field trip, his class observed employee Neils Carlson giving a glassblowing demonstration. From five feet away, the students watched Carlson pull and shape a hot, glowing blob into a graceful swan. This was the exact moment that Birkhill fell in love with glassmaking and knew he wanted to learn everything about it. After the demonstration, he bought one of the glass swans for his mother and studied it whenever he could.
Frederick as a child with a camera, circa 1959. / Photo by Dr. F. Ross Birkhill, courtesy Frederick Birkhill
Few people can pinpoint the place where they found their passion. Frederick Birkhill can. Anyone who comes to The Henry Ford can find something that excites them and sparks their future passions. That single experience in the Glass Shop stuck with Birkhill and led him on a path to a very successful career as an artist. Because of Neils Carlson, Birkhill's thirst for knowledge took off, leading him to study in England, elsewhere in Europe, and at what is now the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
In the early years of his career, Birkhill was an employee of Greenfield Village and worked in the Tintype Studio. During his tenure, he was able to study and learn about glassblowing, stained glass, photography, daguerreotypes, and tintypes from various artisans around Liberty Craftworks and metro Detroit. At the time, The Henry Ford was one of the only places in the United States where one could learn about tintype photography and other specialized crafts. Birkhill created some of his first daguerreotype photos of scenes at The Henry Ford. One of those early daguerreotypes of Greenfield Village's Farris Windmill was later acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
"The Windmill at Greenfield Village, 1972,” daguerreotype created by Frederick Birkhill, in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History / Photo courtesy Frederick Birkhill
In addition to learning about different media during his time working in the village, Birkhill was able to use his skills and artistry to teach an array of subjects at The Henry Ford, including classes he developed on the history of glass and stained glass.
Birkhill also collaborated with David Grant Maul, another former employee. Birkhill acquired a special tool from Maul that allowed him to hold hot glass so he could effectively complete flame-worked glass objects. This tool was the catalyst for a successful career in flame-worked glass and furnace glass. Our Glass Shop includes a furnace that allowed Birkhill to learn both specialties.
Frederick Birkhill flameworking in his studio. / Photo by Henry Leutwyler, courtesy Frederick Birkhill
Now, after several decades as a glass artist, an artist's monograph, Glassworks: The Art of Frederick Birkhill, has been published by The Artist Book Foundation. An extensive colorplate section includes the lavish photography of Henry Leutwyler, showcasing Birkhill's work in complex detail as well as his artistic mastery of glass. A copy now resides in The Henry Ford's Benson Ford Research Center. We are honored to have Frederick and his wife, Jeannie, as friends of The Henry Ford.
Adult changing table in one of our two new accessible companion-care restrooms.
As for so many others, the year 2020 was not easy for The Henry Ford. The pandemic brought many challenges that we had to face as an institution. Despite those challenges, we remained committed to reaching strategic goals that we had set to improve accessibility and inclusion for all of our guests. Through teamwork and determination, we were able to stay on track toward this commitment.
We are excited to share that we received a three-year grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support sensory programming initiatives. With this grant, we will be able to expand our current programming and build on what we have learned with new programming for guests with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and sensory processing disorder (SPD). The grant will allow guests to have improved on-site experiences and access to our collections in all of our venues.
In addition, we are excited to announce that, within the next year, we are planning to launch a new program for teens and young adults with ASD and SPD that will include activities aimed at social skill-building and networking.
The inclusion of all guests is one of the main pillars of our strategic plan. We believe that this is an important component that will help all guests feel welcome and comfortable on our campus. Because of this, we are expanding training for both current and new staff members. We are developing a module that will use information from the Autism Alliance of Michigan, as well as other organizations, to help our staff become more aware of those with disabilities. As an institution, we understand that it is our responsibility to become more aware of disabilities, as well as how we can modify our unique educational experiences for guests who may need additional support. It is important that guests of all ages, backgrounds and abilities have equal access to the collection and our campus.
Another example of how we are making a more comfortable experience for our guests with disabilities is with the installation of two new accessible companion care restrooms, located at both ends of the main promenade of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Our accessibility specialist, Caroline Braden, partnered with the Madison Center to help design these restrooms. The Madison Center has partnered with The Henry Ford for over 10 years through our Community Outreach Program. The project was supported in part by grants from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Ford Foundation.
Toilet in one of our new accessible companion-care restrooms.
The work done on the companion care restrooms goes above and beyond compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The restrooms are barrier-free and include power-operated doors, extra space, and a power-adjustable adult changing table. These tables will be able to accommodate guests with physical and cognitive disabilities. As an institution, we are very proud of this construction, and we are very grateful to those who worked so hard on this essential project.
Caroline Heise is Annual Fund Specialist at The Henry Ford.