Home Artifacts New Henry Ford exhibition is dedicated to mobility, old and new

New Henry Ford exhibition is dedicated to mobility, old and new


Cherborn – If an object could one day tell the story of COVID-19 – especially when it comes to mobility – what would it be?

As part of Henry Ford’s latest exhibition, “Collecting Mobility: New Objects, New Stories”, this is a Ford Transit Van equipped as a COVID-19 mobile test unit, one of 20 Fords created and used in Michigan. An integrated compartment is hermetically sealed with holes for the gloves allowing medical personnel to test someone without being exposed to anything.

The transit van is just one part of “Collecting Mobility,” an exciting new exhibit that zigzags through time to explore mobility. From the late 19th century Columbus Surrey, a type of car popular before cars, to the 1989 Top Fuel dragster that can reach up to 300 miles per hour, he explores the many aspects of mobility.

Matt Anderson, Henry Ford’s transportation curator, said the new exhibit showcases some of the museum’s latest acquisitions – including an autonomous shuttle used at the University of Michigan as part of a study – but also “pulls the curtain ”on why the museum collects certain objects.

“Curators, every time we bring something into the collection, we have to write a defense as to why it should be here,” Anderson said. “… That’s the big takeaway from this exhibit. We don’t collect objects. We collect stories. Objects are just the way to tell those stories.”

The exhibit, which features more than 30 rarely seen artifacts, includes around 10 vehicles. And some are cars that gearboxes wouldn’t expect in a museum, like a Mustang II from the 1972-1983 “era of unrest”. Among car collectors, this isn’t their favorite era for the Mustang, Anderson said.

A Lincoln Continental limousine used by Pope Paul VI for a visit to New York in 1965 and by the Apollo 13 astronauts for a parade in Chicago in 1970, is part of a new exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum  "Collection mobility: new objects, new stories.", Wednesday 20 October 2021.

“A lot of people don’t collect them, but at the time it was a hot selling car,” Anderson said. “… But these cars are some of the hardest to find because collectors don’t want them, so they’re scrapped. And that makes them pretty unusual.”

The Henry Ford has 26 million pieces in its collection and it is always adding more. A special committee meets weekly to vote on adding new artifacts.

The majority of the objects in the museum’s collection are photographs, paper documents, and documents held at the Benson Ford Research Center. But the museum also recently opened a new storage building behind the museum where it keeps larger items, such as cars.

One artifact from the “Collecting Mobility” exhibit that shows how Henry Ford also collects objects that reflect emerging technology is an “Autonom” driverless shuttle. The shuttle operated a mile-long route on UM’s north campus for 18 months. The museum acquired it in 2020.

“We never just collected old things,” Anderson said. “We also collected current items. With emerging technologies, it’s difficult. You want to collect items that seem to be important technologies in the future. But of course you never know.”

The transit van is the most current artifact in the exhibit. And Anderson said there had been a discussion as to whether it was too early to include anything related to COVID-19.

“It was from March or April 2020, very early in the pandemic, when we didn’t know what we were dealing with,” Anderson said. “What it would do is go to hospitals, fire stations, police stations. It would bring the tests to people.”

The sleek dragster, meanwhile, is the highlight of the show. The fastest competition car approved by the National Hot Rod Association for drag racing, it uses nitromethane fuel which requires less oxygen during combustion, which means it creates more power than the gasoline.

The Henry Ford adds thousands of so-called acquisitions to its collection each year – objects or groupings of objects. And what is one thing they have in mind in the future? A Tesla Model S.

At the end of the exhibit, guests can even scan a QR code to find out more about their own items and if the Henry Ford might be interested in them.

“Collecting Mobility” runs until January 2. Some items, such as the dragster, will eventually be added to Henry Ford’s “Driven to Win” exhibit. It’s free with membership or admission to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

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“Collecting mobility: new objects, new stories”

From Saturday to January 2.

Free with admission to the museum or membership.

For more details, visit thehenryford.org/current-events/.