[graphic header] Detroit: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, National Park Service

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The Edison Institute illustrates Henry Ford's personal commitment to preserving the record of America's technological and cultural progess. The success of the Model T allowed Ford to pursue a number of avocations. Particularly interested in the nation's past, by 1920 Ford was determined to start a museum that would emphisize industrial history and therby "give people a true picture of the development of the country." Ford had decided that the best way to create this picture would be in two parts. An exhibit hall would display inventions and artifacts that recorded man's technological and cultural progress, while an adjacent outdoor village of residential, commercial, and industrial architecture would show how those objects were made and used. He named the entire complex after Thomas Edison, who had encouraged Ford when he was developing his automobile and who embodied, the carmaker believed, practical genius. Opening in 1933, the museum included many items from Ford's collection, from automobiles to player pianos, from steam engines to grease pumps. Ford also built some new structures for the collection of buildings he named Greenfield Village, most notably a replica of Independence Hall that was located at the entrance of the complex. Many of the village's nearly 100 buildings, however, had been moved from their original locations. Reflecting Ford's ideas about the crucial events of history, the 255 acres of grounds included Edison's Menlo Park laboratory, the shop where the Wright Brothers built their plane, and Ford's childhood home and early workplaces -- all reflecting Ford's view of what was important in history. Removing buildings from their original settings proved increasingly controversial as the years passed, but Greenfield Village was a model for the development of other outdoor museums. Today more than one million visitors a year come to the Edison Institute, learning about American history, as well as the views of Henry Ford.

Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum is located just south of Michigan Avenue (Interstate 94) at Oakwood Boulevard in Dearborn. The museum is open daily, 9-5, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is a price for admission. Click here for more information.

Ford Motor Company's first factory Ford Motor Company's first factory

  Wright Brother's bicycle shop Wright Brother's bicycle shop
Photographs by Michigan State Historic Preservation Office

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