Last week while we were in Michigan, PJ and I also visited the Henry Ford Museum. I’ll admit that I wasn’t exactly thrilled when PJ picked it for a stop on our way back home. I wasn’t really excited by the thought of looking at a bunch of cars. It turns out that the museum has a lot more to offer than just cars — but even they are worth a visit. I ended up really enjoying the museum.

One of the first exhibits you see in the museum is this one:

This is the car in which President Kennedy was sitting when he was assassinated in 1963. It’s kind of startling to see it — especially after PJ and I had been to Dallas and the Sixth Floor Museum last year. What’s even more startling is to learn that the government kept using the car as a presidential limousine for several years after the assassination.

Keeping with the presidential assassination theme, the museum also houses the chair in which Lincoln was sitting when he was shot:

This second item demonstrates that the museum possesses a lot of artifacts and exhibits that don’t have anything to do with automobiles. The one that interested me the most was the Dymaxion House. (You can click on the link to see all about it.) This house was an effort to solve the housing shortage after World War Two but was never actually put into production. I really enjoyed the tour through the house. It alone is worth the price of admission.

The museum also currently offers a special exhibit on movie costumes that includes one of Darth Vader’s costumes. It also has a few from Star Trek and Batman. There’s also a lengthy exhibition on American freedom, which leads up to the bus on which Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat. Th exhibit on early airplanes is also illuminating. And finally, I liked the exhibits on pre-automobile transportation (sleighs, carriages, etc.) and trains. The latter included this engine:

This engine, the Allegheny Locomotive, is massive in scale and is apparently one of the largest steam locomotives ever made. It was built in 1941 and was used to haul coal trains across the Allegheny Mountains. You can go inside the cab to see what it would have been like to “drive” it.

But the cars are also worth seeing. There is a great exhibit about the evolution of automobiles and how they have been made, but my favorite part is the section on automobiles and camping/vacationing in America. I was really struck by the exhibit’s point on how the car (and camper) changed Americans’ vacations and helped create the national park system. The examples of early camping were really interesting. I wish I had taken a picture, but I kept forgetting that I had my camera with me.

I definitely recommend a visit to the Henry Ford Museum. It’s about a lot more than just cars. Apparently, when Ford started collecting things he collected examples of innovation, regardless of what field of endeavor they came from. It’s a fun, interesting museum that’s both family friendly and perfectly suitable for adults without kids.

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