Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Greenfield Village

Visit the beautiful state of Michigan and somewhere near the top of your Must See List be sure to pencil in Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford Museum. Having grown up outside Detroit, I've visited these sites many, many times but have never had as nice a trip as we did this July.

Greenfield Village is much like Colonial Williamsburg -- an expansive, authentic outdoor museum full of houses and farms and shops and docents in period costume.

We watched Monuments Men not too far back. I liked it. It's a bit of an odd movie in that it juxtaposes series themes with a tone that almost feels campy. I need to watch it a second time. Anyway, I liked it. After its release, George Clooney made headlines speaking about what historically have been called "the Elgin Marbles." George called them "the Greek Marbles."

As an historian friend of mine used to say, "The winners pick the names."

The marbles are named for a British aristocrat/archaeologist who swiped them from Greece which was then occupied by the Ottomans. Time magazine listed the Elgin Marbles among the greatest plundered artifacts of all time. Mr. Clooney is trying to bring the marbles home to Greece.

John in the machine shop.

(Google "plundered artifacts" for an interesting article on the whole subject. I like the way stolen artifacts are typically described as having been "spirited away." Reminds me of vocab exercises that invariably noted that bank robbers had "absconded with the funds." An English teacher friend of mine used to wonder if one could "abscond" with anything other than "the funds." Clearly she doesn't know my children who routinely "abscond with the remote" or "abscond with the last nutty bar.")

Kolbe in a play about the Wright brothers.

A visit to Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford Museum always makes me mull over the politics and economics of artifacts. If you visit Ford's Theater in Washington D.C., you'll see it pretty much as it was the night of Lincoln's assassination. Except for the President's chair. That's in The Henry Ford Museum. I guess it's appropriate that the world's largest automotive museum houses the limousine President Kennedy was riding in Dallas at the time of his assassination. Mr. Ford managed to buy the limo and ship it to Detroit. And then there's Menlo Park. Menlo Park, Thomas Edison's laboratory, was originally located in, well, Menlo Park. Which happens to be in New Jersey. But Menlo Park is now in Dearborn, Michigan, in Greenfield Village. Then there's the Wright Brothers' artifacts. Ohio and North Carolina, logically, might arm wrestle over rights to these since the brothers did most of their work in Ohio, but took their historic flight in Kitty Hawk. No matter. Nearly everything is in Michigan.

Controversy aside, all of this makes Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford Museum world class museums and a whole lot of fun to boot. (And it makes me wonder if Henry Ford had been British and not American and an archaeologist instead of a car manufacturer, would the Sphinx have supplanted Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square? Would the entire Great Pyramid have been shipped to Europe? Mr. Ford clearly knew how to get what he wanted.)

One of the things he wanted was to inspire young inventors. All the kids -- from four-year-old Ainsley to twenty-two year-old Steven -- loved the Village.

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