The Henry Ford Museum contains a collection of artifacts that demonstrate American ingenuity, whether they be every-day household items used by innovators or the products they invented. While the museum’s collection is mostly about cars and vehicles, it’s also about the evolution of America, from air planes to house-hold appliances.
Collection and Facilities:
The collection is most like the Smithsonian History Museum in terms of type, but the actual museum is actually a big, hangar-type hall with 40-foot ceilings. It is a single level, covers over nine acres and has more of a funky feel than an academic one. Its exhibits are mostly static, but there is usually at least one traveling exhibit, like the James Bond exhibition and Chocolate.
Claims to Fame:
- There is no greater depository of historic cars. Because the Henry Ford Museum is about the man’s collection, not the car company’s, every conceivable make and model is on display –- not just form the Ford Motor Company. Exhibits also include mobile homes and bikes.
- The Dymaxion House was designed by R. Buckminster Fuller and is a 1946 version of the house of the future. Even today, it contains some awe-inspiring innovation. The round house is made out of airplane fuselage and constructed a lot like an umbrella. A tour guide provides some much needed history and unveiling of hidden nooks and crannies.
- The Heroes of the Sky exhibit covers the early history of aviation.
- With Liberty and Justice for All is an exhibit that chronicles the history of freedom in the United States.
- Made in America is an exhibit that showcases American innovation, including the gothic steam engine.
- Your Place in Time, 20th Century America is an interesting walk through the eras of the 20th century, showcasing the products that defined each. Included is a 1930s living room, complete with a broadcast of Orson Well’s radio program of The War of the Worlds. You may even recognize the first Panasonic VCR, a Simon electronic game and a Pet Rock.
- The limousine Kennedy rode in when he was shot
- A 1902 Ford Model-T
- The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile
- The Rosa Parks Bus
- The chair from the Ford Theater in which Lincoln was shot
- Paul Revere’s tea pots
- Edgar Allen Poe’s writing desk.
While the museum is not hands-on interactive, it is still kid friendly. The high-ceilings and massive space eliminate the crushing silence that can define the experience in a gallery-type museum.
Chocolate is certainly interesting. The exhibit leads you down a path of discovery as you wind your way through the history of chocolate. It was created by the Chicago Field Museum, but, frankly, there isn’t much in it for kids. The exhibit is mainly about reading the information contained on each panel. While there are artifacts illustrating each, some of the artifacts are reproductions and most are on the dry side for kids: Mayan chocolate stirrers, 18th century china cups used for hot chocolate and early 20th century advertisements. The best part may be the chocolate store at the end of the path that offers clothing, different kinds of chocolate (including chocolate pasta) and chocolate souvenirs.
- Michigan Café: A themed cafeteria that offers a vast variety of regional cuisine, including dishes that utilize Michigan cherries, Sander’s Hot-Fudge Cream Puff and Guernsey Ice Cream. Obviously the theme is Michigan. You can’t miss it; a huge mural of the state decorates the lobby leading into the restaurant. The cafeteria offers hot meals and a deli. Unlike many such cafeterias, there are no pre-made burger bins. The dining room is attractive with large windows over looking the museum grounds.
- Wienermobile Café: A small, fast-food type cafeteria in the corner of the hall near the entrance.
- Check the museum’s website before a visit; sometimes coupons for several dollars off the admission price are available.
- Traveling exhibits sometimes have their own admission price, although Chocolate is included in the museum's general admission.
- The museum has weekly events that jazz up the experience. For instance, free chocolate samples are handed out on weekends at 11 a.m. during the run of Chocolate.
- Yearly memberships are available, as are various packages that include Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. Daily admission is $14 an adult.
- Parking is $5, a fee that is not apparent until pay admission.