The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Nov 27, 2012

No time like the present: the Detroit Historical Museum celebrates its grand reopening

Posted by rsharp

The main hall, featuring a 100-year timeline of Detroit, highlighting a history of powerhouse franchises.

The Detroit Historical Museum held a marathon reopening over Thanksgiving weekend, with free admission and extended hours. The DHM remained open for 60 continuous hours over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and drew visitors of all stripes. The opening follows a six-month closure for renovation.

All aspects of Detroit's history have a place in the museum, from its roots as a fur-trading post and thriving agricultural center on the Erie Canal route.

Officially founded in 1951, the museum was stocked with over 15,000 items amassed by the Detroit Historical Society, which has been an active institution since 1927. Though initially operated by a historical commission built by the city, responsibility for the museum was returned to the Detroit Historical Society in 2006. Some exhibits will be familiar to patrons of the museum, including an assembly line which features a two-story body-drop from the GM Clark Street Plant, and an updated version of the "Streets of Old Detroit" installation on the bottom floor.

The olde time pharmacist in the "Streets of Old Detroit" exhibit is a Detroit Historical Society volunteer and former healthcare professional.

The assembly line installation, upholding Detroit's reputation for dropping bodies.

New exhibits, however, include an expansion of "Doorway to Freedom: Detroit and the Underground Railroad" exhibit, and three new permanent exhibits: the "Gallery of Innovation," the "Allesee Gallery of Culture" and "Detroit: The Arsenal of Democracy." These exhibits embody a subtle shift in focus and an effort to shed new light on places Detroit has been and where it may be going.

Mayor Pingree ushered Detroit through depression in the late 1800s by means of an agricultural stimulus program that was so successful it was adopted by other cities. Good thinking!

The new "Gallery of Innovation" also includes a spotlight on female innovators, including Brownie Wise, who identified the popularity of Tupperware products and created the institution of the Tupperware party.

"Doorway to Freedom: Detroit and the Underground Railroad" features an assembly of testimonials from individuals who supported and participated in the dangerous process of self-emancipation.

An exhibit on Focus:Hope offers an eye-opening and detailed look at one of Detroit's most progressive institutions.

Overall, the newly revitalized Detroit Historical Museum is a must-see for anyone with passion for the city’s history and its future.

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