Innovation Nation

From rare cars to freedom rides, modular houses to microprocessors, the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation offers exhibits that showcase incredible examples of ingenuity and creativity.

By Jason Chiang

September 2019

Innovation Nation

At the “Heroes of the Sky” exhibit, visitors can view innovative aircraft, like the 1928 Ford 4-AT-B Tri-Motor airplane. Photograph courtesy The Henry Ford

Located in Dearborn, Michigan, the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation immerses visitors in the ingenuity, resourcefulness and creativity that helped build America. The museum aims to preserve and restore important moments in American innovation in order to inspire people to shape a better future. From the history of the automobile and pioneering technologies that made aviation possible, to exploring America’s rich cultural history and Thomas Edison’s personal laboratory, the Henry Ford museum tells the stories of the incredible innovations and people that made the country what it is today. 

At the Henry Ford museum, great innovators have their stories told through interactive exhibits and a massive collection of rare historical artifacts. Here, visitors can pay homage to some of America’s most important thinkers and doers. “The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation showcases the ideas and innovations, technological and social, that have changed our world and continue to inspire on a daily basis,” says John Neilson, vice president of venues at The Henry Ford. “It’s the only place where visitors can browse through the world’s premier automotive collection, explore the early years of flight, walk past an array of presidential limousines and see an unparalleled collection of artifacts representing powerful change.” The Henry Ford includes four venues: the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory tour and the Benson Ford Research Center. It is also home to the Henry Ford Academy, a public charter high school. The Henry Ford is among the largest indoor-outdoor museum complexes in the United States.

The museum is named after Henry Ford, the renowned American industrialist and automobile industry pioneer, who founded the Ford Motor Company. Even though he did not invent the automobile or the assembly line, he was instrumental in launching the first automobiles that many middle-class Americans could afford in the early 1900’s. When the Ford Motor Company introduced the legendary Model T automobile in 1908, it provided an affordable transportation option to the masses and became an iconic symbol of America’s age of modernization. Ford’s contributions to the automotive industry are on full display in “Driving America,” one of the must-see exhibits at the museum. It features more than 100 historic vehicles and 20 interactive touchscreens with activities, video interviews, images and information about the automobile’s amazing history.

Even after Ford’s passing in 1947, the museum’s staff continued to honor and expand his vision of preserving the past to inspire the future. In 2004, the Ford Motor Company launched a new partnership with the museum: The Ford Rouge Factory tour. It features a fully-functioning on-site automobile manufacturing facility for visitors to experience. It is a self-guided, five-part tour that showcases how Ford F-150 trucks are made in real life, right on the assembly line. Buses transport people to the factory, which is located about 15 minutes away from the museum.

In 2014, The Henry Ford premiered its first-ever national television series, “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation,” in partnership with the museum. The Emmy-winning show highlights present-day innovators, who challenge themselves to think outside the box and create new solutions for a better future. Each episode also highlights the Henry Ford museum’s artifacts, unique experiences and upcoming special exhibits and events.

Another program is The Henry Ford’s annual National Invention Convention, where the next generation of young inventors and entrepreneurs from across the United States get to put their best ideas on display. The event brings together winners of youth invention and entrepreneurship competitions from across the country to display their hard work. This year, more than 500 young inventors attended the convention. 

The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is open seven days a week, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission tickets range from $17.25 for youth to $23 for adults. The Ford Rouge Factory Tour is open Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and requires a separate admission ticket from the museum. The ticket prices range from $10 for youth to $18 for adults. 

Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.



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