Detroit Historical Society and Museum
The Detroit Historical Society was founded in 1921 and opened the Detroit Historical Museum in 1928. The society and its museum seek to "tell Detroit's stories and why they matter." The current museum building was dedicated in 1951 and features exhibits on Detroit's growth from a frontier town to one of the largest urban areas of the nation.
Backstory and Context
The museum joined the American Association of Museums in 1940, and fundraising began to find a larger space to house its collection. In July 1944, the historical society handed over management of the museum to the City of Detroit while it continued to raise funds for a new building. The museum was temporarily moved to the Homer Williams historic home on Wayne State University’s campus, to allow students better access to the collection. A new museum was built in Detroit's Cultural Center and dedicated on July 24, 1951. 2
On the bottom level of the museum, is the popular “Streets of Old Detroit” permanent exhibit, which takes visitors through a recreated Detroit of the 1840s, 1870s, and 1900s. Other permanent exhibits include “The Motor City” (how Detroit became known for its auto industry), “The Arsenal of Democracy” (Detroit’s role during WWII), and “Frontiers to Factories: Detroiters at Work, 1701 – 1901.” The museum was remodeled with new exhibits and upgrades and a more “customer-focused orientation” in 2006 and again in 2012. 3
Overall, the historical society maintains a collection of over 250,000 artifacts, archives, and photos. It also manages the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle (see other Clio entries). The society offers numerous programs and events, including lectures, historic house tours, seasonal film series, and workshops. Finally, the society has a variety of educational online resources for historical research, such as a “Building Detroit” game, an “Encyclopedia of Detroit,” and an interactive map showing important sites that make Detroit an “Arsenal of Democracy” during WWII.
2. Farley, Ran. "The Detroit Historical Museum." Detroit1701.org Website. Published February 2013. Accessed July 24, 2016. http://detroit1701.org/Detroit%20Historical%20Museum.html#.V5UqNRJv-k9
3. "Detroit Historical Museum Exhibitions." The Detroit Historical Society Official Website. Accessed July 24, 2016. http://detroithistorical.org/detroit-historical-museum/exhibitions