Metro Detroit is known for many things: Music, automotive manufacturing and fantastic people who may have come from different places but have the common bond of loving their state and their cities through good times and bad times.
Detroit itself was founded in 1701, so there is more than 300 years of history to explore and learn about through the many museums based here. Some have specific collections that highlight moments that defined this area. Others are more eclectic and focus on the many unique aspects of the collector’s personality or interests.
Whatever the collection, you can be sure you will see some of the most fascinating and one-of-a-kind items anywhere in the world right in Metro Detroit. While these museums are temporarily closed because of the coronavirus, you can see some of their collections online.
Detroit Historical Museum: Detroit’s history and its great residents are the stars of this family-friendly museum. The Detroit Historical Museum is the only museum dedicated to telling our region’s history. The Detroit Historical Museum’s Signature Exhibitions are permanent installations that showcase more than 300 years of our city’s rich history. Five new, permanent exhibitions debuted in 2012: the Gallery of Innovation, the Allesee Gallery of Culture, the Kid Rock Music Lab, Legends Plaza, and Detroit: The Arsenal of Democracy. An expanded Doorway to Freedom: Detroit and the Underground Railroad exhibition better showcases this important part of Detroit history. Pre-existing permanent exhibitions have received upgrades and improvements, including updates to the beloved Streets of Old Detroit, America’s Motor City and Frontiers to Factories: Detroiters at Work, 1701-1901 exhibitions.
Detroit Institute of Arts: The DIA’s collection is among the top six in the United States, with more than 65,000 works. Founded in 1885, the museum was originally located on Jefferson Avenue, but, due to its rapidly expanding collection, moved to the current site on Woodward Avenue in 1927. The Beaux-Arts building, designed by Paul Cret, was immediately referred to as the “temple of art.” Two wings were added in the 1960s and 1970s, and a major renovation and expansion that began in 1999 was completed in 2007. The museum covers 658,000 square feet that includes more than 100 galleries, a 1,150-seat auditorium, a 380-seat lecture/recital hall, an art reference library, and a state-of-the-art conservation services laboratory.
The Henry Ford: This museum, founded by automotive magnate Henry Ford, has a smattering of car history, transportation history and everything-else-with-wheels history. But it also houses much more about the American experience than you might expect, including the car that held John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated and Abraham Lincoln’s chair where he died from a gunshot wound. Greenfield Village also houses amazing sights from Ford’s childhood home to the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop.
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History: It is the second largest historical museum devoted to African-American history in the world – and it is located right in the Cultural Center of Detroit. The Charles H. Wright seeks to “open minds and changes lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture,” according to its website, and it delivers. Must-see exhibits include “And Still We Rise,” which highlights the true story of the routes African Americans took from their home countries to the United States through slavery, Jim Crow and into the Civil Rights Movement and beyond.
Motown Museum: This is a must-see for any music lover, especially those who grew up listening to The Supremes, the Four Tops, The Temptations and Stevie Wonder. Thousands of visitors pass through Hitsville U.S.A. each year, eager to experience Motown’s legacy and to the charisma, talent and staying power of the music and those who made it. Founded by Esther Gordy Edwards in 1985, the Motown Museum is one of Southeast Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations. You must stand in Studio A, where the world’s most talented artists and groups recorded much-loved music, and view the restored upper flat where Berry Gordy, Jr. lived with his young family during the company’s earliest days.