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Last year, we decided to purchase a membership to the Henry Ford, which is one of the more prominent museums in the area.  It has a lot of history, from the auto industry but also in many other things that go beyond.  We probably would have joined sooner, but the drive is about 40 minutes from our house.

From a frugal perspective, it can't be beat.  The membership was $145 but it is tax deductible, meaning that it's probably more about $115 out of pocket.  Each visit would cost us around $40, so just three visits makes it pay for itself.  We've gone six times and have another two months until our membership expires, so we've more than taken advantage.

Here are some of the great things that I personally enjoy at our museum:

  • History through the years – They have a section where they have living rooms or bedrooms set up as they would have been in a typical house at the time, throughout the 1900's. You see how things were for my parent's generation and other people who grew up before you, but the fun is seeing your own decade.  I look at the 1980's display and can point out more than a few things that I had or knew friends who did.
  • Steam engines – Somehow we always got diverted around the big area that's dedicated to steam engines.  They have at least a dozen steam engines, some of massive proportions, which were disassembled and reassembled in the museum.  They give information about how each was used, and it just fascinates me.  Now, we just run some electrical lines and get things going, but for a long time, steam was used to run machines in factories.  A totally different time yet the various technical components that went into it were some of the things that gave companies and people an edge.  Yesterday, steam engines, today microchips, tomorrow…well, who knows?
  • Cars – With ‘Ford' in the name, you know that cars are going to be featured prominently, and they are.  They show cars and some of the innovations throughout the years, from the Model Ts to a recent Prius and just about everything in between.  Beyond just a traditional ‘here's a car and what it did' display, they have some pretty cool things: Race cars used in various race circuits, an automobile that set and held the land speed record (409 MPH) for many years, and other cool things give a lot of insight to the automobile, and it's interesting even if you're not a car buff.
  • Presidential ‘ends' – This one might be a bit morbid, but history is history.  The mb-201401lincoln500x500museum has two items associated with presidential assassinations.  They have the chair that Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot, and they also have the actual car in which John F. Kennedy was riding when he was shot and killed.  One thing that amazes me is that after the assassination, the car was gutted, reinforced, and used in the motorcade pool for another ten years or more.  Creepy!
  • The Rosa Parks bus – About fifteen years ago, a rotted out bus was found in an Alabama field.  Somehow it was traced back as the actual bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, creating a defining moment in the civil rights movement.  The museum purchased it and arranged for a complete restoration, making it look as it likely did in the 1950's.  It's on display, and you can get inside and see where this piece of history took place.  They play a recording of Rosa Parks talking about that day and the events that unfolded, and it's startling to think of how much has changed.
  • How excited our kids get – With all that, you'd think that we got the membership for our enjoyment.  In truth, while we love it, the real reason we got it was for our kids.  They're only four and two but they love going and always want to see whatever they didn't see last time, on top of the ‘favorites' that they each have.

The stuff I've described is all on the inside portion.  And there's a lot more I didn't even cover.  They have a massive section with trains and locomotives used when rails ruled transportation.  There's a bunch of antique furniture, as well as old farming equipment.  Not that these things aren't interesting, but we just haven't spent the time we have on the items above.  Another day.

On top of all I've mentioned, they have an entire separate area called Greenfield Village that has houses and shops from colonial times and other such periods that show how life was for people years back.  We went to that once or twice but barely scratched the surface.  I think we plan on getting another membership when ours expires, and will try to get out there more often to see this, as I know it would be just as interesting.

Do you get fascinated by history?  What are some of your favorite museums or attractions which unlock the past?

Note: I wrote this post completely because I think this museum is cool and I love sharing the experience.  There was no promotional consideration or otherwise.