Museums in Detroit

Detroit was founded in 1701 and due to its convenient location became a major port city for the Midwest. Detroit is probably most noted for its contributions to the automobile industry and to Motown, but the city has branches that reach much further and encompass many areas you might not have imagined. A tour of the museums of Detroit will give you a better understanding of what the city has brought to the world and how it chooses to celebrate its past.

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

The Dossin Great Lakes Museum sits on the shore of Belle Isle, a beautiful city park. The view of the Detroit River is exceptional and displays how important this waterway and the city of Detroit once was to the shipping industry. In addition to significant artifacts there is a reconstructed pilot house of the S.S. William Clay Ford and a gigantic collection of scale model ships.

Children’s Museum

The Detroit Children’s Museum dates back to 1917, making it the third oldest children’s museum in the country. Initially the museum was a joint venture between the Detroit Board of Education and the Museum of Art, called the Museum within a Museum. By 1925 the Detroit Board of Education was solely responsible for the museum meaning that the exhibits and activities in the museum are designed to engage children and provide them with lessons in different aspects of learning.

Motown Historical Museum

Detroit’s most popular tourist destination is the Motown Historical Museum, which draws thousands of visitors through its doors annually. The museum was founded in 1985 by Esther Gordy Edwards and seeks to preserve the legacy of the Motown Record Corporation. The museum begins at the beginning of Motown in the small Detroit home of Berry Gordy, Jr.  Once known as Hitsville USA the home is now known at the Motown Historical Museum. Exhibits in the museum include photographs, artwork, music, costumes and other memorabilia in addition to the famous Studio A where some of the greatest hits of the era were recorded.

Museum of Contemporary Art

It seems fitting that the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit was once an auto dealership. The space is open and bland, making it the perfect space and backdrop for contemporary exhibits. In addition to displaying unique works of art the Museum of Contemporary Art Store sells art materials and supplies that are specialized and cannot be found in many traditional art stores. Exhibits change fairly regularly so this museum is definitely one to watch.

Detroit Historical Museum

The Detroit Historical Museum was established in 1921 by Clarence M. Burton who brought together several local historians who were all interested in preserving the city’s history. In 1928 the museum opened in a one room suite on the 23rd floor of the Barlum Tower, which earned it the nickname the highest museum in the world. In 1951 a new museum was constructed and is considered an important leading cultural institution with frequently changing exhibits. The museum has expanded and now welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each year.

Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts, formerly known as the Detroit Museum of Art, has one of the largest, most significant art collections in the United States. The museum features more than 100 galleries and covers 677,000 square feet. The very first painting was donated to the museum in 1883 and there are currently more than 65,000 works of art. The exhibits do not cover specific areas but rather span artwork from pieces that are thousands of years old to the newest contemporary pieces.

Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum

A Tuskegee museum in Detroit seems a little unusual at first as the airmen were trained in Alabama but a large percent of these men originally came from the Detroit area. The Tuskegee Airmen were America’s first black military airmen and were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee Alabama. These men made significant contributions to the war effort, but perhaps more importantly they helped break down the wall of racism and change some stereotypical views of blacks in America. Unfortunately after their military service many of the men, and eventually some women, returned to face continued racism and bigotry but their contribution cannot be denied.

Detroit Science Center

The Detroit Science Center is a hands on museum, letting visitors not only learn but experience exhibits in engineering, technology and science. The museum was established in 1970 under the vision of Dexter Ferry but didn’t come to rest in its current home until 1978. The museum has gone through a few expansions since then and is now one of the 10 largest science museums in the country. The museum contains an IMAX, a planetarium, the DTE Energy Sparks Theater, a science stage and a science hall for traveling exhibits.

International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum

The International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum was founded in 1995 by DoRohn Entertainment president and gospel singer, David Gough, or the Mayor of Gospel. Each year the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum holds a ceremony to induct that year’s honorees. During your visit you can see the Wall of Time and hear Gospel legends of the past and present. You can also experience an actual recording session and then listen to your tracks on your very own CD.

Detroit Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum

The Detroit Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum is the only one of its kind in the country dedicated solely to powerboat racing. Established in 1983 the museum seeks to preserve artifacts from these sports and increase awareness and access. The museum contains a large collection of vintage hydroplanes spanning a remarkable seven decades. There aren’t many museums of this kind so this is the primary resource for historical and educational information on this sport.

Who knew that Detroit had so much to offer and had such a diverse and far reaching cultural core? No matter what you’re interested in it seems that Detroit has established a museum to cater to that interest. Detroit is a fascinating city with more diversity and deeper history than most people expect.
Creative Commons License photo credit: {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}

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