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WATCH: Interviews with the Detroit Historical Museum's Public Relations Director Bob Sadler and attendees



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Local News / Entertainment

Saturday, 30 July, 2011 3:28 AM

The Detroit Historical Museum celebrates the city's birthday with free admission

Extended hours and special activities are being offered all week long


A temporary exhibit in the basement of the Detroit Historical Museum features a sampling of artifacts of some of the museum's future exhibits.


by Jason Rzucidlo



DETROIT -- The city of Detroit was founded on July 24, 1701 while the Detroit Historical Museum was founded in December 1921. The museum is celebrating the city's 310th birthday with free admission, extended hours and special activities all week long. Hurry, it all ends on July 31 at 5 p.m. In addition, the Historical Museum has raised a little more than half of its $20.1 million fundraising goal for its Past>Forward Campaign. It is aimed at remodeling the museum and creating more space to bring in new exhibits.

The museum's week-long series of special events is now underway and is being called Seven Days, Seven Stories. For each day from July 25 through 31, each permanent or new exhibit inside the museum will be highlighted. Attendees will be able to participate in interactive activities such as decoding Underground Railroad messages, creating race car designs, becoming a history detective, sampling food from Golden Spice Catering, creating a WWII propaganda poster and dressing as a Detroit icon.

"That includes free admission for each day, extended hours from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.," said Bob Sadler, the museum's director of public relations and external affairs. "We have a day devoted to Detroit's Arsenal of Democracy, a day devoted to the Allesee Gallery of Culture. People are invited to dress as their favorite Detroit icon. That is going to be a lot of fun. We want people to take a look at what we're offering here, the wonderful, new enhancements and great, new things we're going to be doing here."

On Saturday, July 30, the Historical Museum is inviting its attendees to wear a costume of a Detroit icon. Winners in each category will receive a $100 gift card to a metro Detroit venue. Prominent Detroiters will judge the best costumes based on authenticity, originality, costume detail and presentation. Museum goers are invited to vote on the Detroit icons that they'd like to see in the Detroit Legends Plaza, which is set to be unveiled in 2012. It will be located outside the museum at the corner of Woodward and Kirby streets. The concept reminds me of the famous handprints in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

"We actually had five of our Detroit living legends present at the event," Sadler added. "They placed their handprints and their signatures into cement. The people that were here involved in that included Mayor Bing, Carmen Harlan, Dick Purtan, Elmore Leonard and Al Kaline. We also have done a handprint casting with Red Wing legend Gordie Howe. He was not able to be present at the event last week, but he was able to do his hands in cement. We have video of that up on on our new YouTube channel, DHSDetroit."

The attention shifts to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Sunday, July 31. The museum, which is located on Belle Isle, will be hosting a new exhibit called Our Maritime Heritage. Musician and songwriter Mike Deren will be performing at noon and 2 p.m. Author Annessa Carlisle will be meeting attendees and signing autographs of her book "Bob-lo: An Island in Troubled Waters." In addition, museum goers will be able to test their Great Lakes Geography and determine how to navigate the strait.

"What we've seen so far is great," said attendee Jim Winne of Washington Twp., Mich. "This Glancy Trains exhibit reminds me Hudson's, I used to go down to see the trains. I've got one of those Lionel bridges. I think free admission is nice, but we're still going to make a donation before we leave. This has still got to be preserved. This is a great city, we can't let it go down. We met one of the musicians from the Dodworth Saxhorn Band out in the parking lot. He sounded very excited so we're going to go down and talk to him. I remember the old seats from Briggs Stadium there. I remember as a little kid, we used to be able to bang those seats, make all kinds of racket when guys like Al Kaline came up to bat."

The Past>Forward Campaign is a five-year effort to raise $20.1 million. So far, $10.6 million or 53 percent of the goal, has already been collected. All monies raised will be used to support new exhibits, enhancements to permanent exhibits, a new exhibit at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, creation of new field trip and classroom resources, new learning experiences at the museum and the digitization of artifacts at the museum.

"We are just starting the third year of the Past>Forward Campaign," Sadler explained. "The first two years were kind of the quiet phase where we were going to foundations and corporations and our individual donors. We have more than 250,000 artifacts. We launched the public part of the campaign last week. We've got no new additional add-ons to the building itself. We're going to be repurposing some existing spaces so we have additional new room for exhibits. Some of our old favorites like the Streets of Old Detroit and Motor City will be getting some enhancements."

The Detroit 313 initiative was created as a group of individuals who will pledge $313 over the next three years. All members of the Detroit 313 program will receive a three-year membership to the Detroit Historical Society and an exclusive poster from Detroit artist Ben Bunk. An anonymous donor is matching 50 percent of the $313 donation turning it into a a $469.50 pledge. To donate to the Past>Forward Campaign, visit or call (313) 833-5527.

"We're going to be featuring a new Allesee Gallery of Culture, which will be dealing with Detroit's history in arts, entertainment, music, sports, architecture," he added. "It's going to be a great gallery and a great addition to the museum. We're also going to having a new exhibit on Detroit and it's role in the Arsenal of Democracy. We're going to have a dramatically expanded Doorway to Freedom exhibit, which is basically about Detroit's role in the underground railroad and helping slaves escape to freedom to Canada. We're actually going to have to close the museum, in 2012, to make all of these wonderful things happen from Memorial Day through Thanksgiving weekend."

Saying I Do: Metro Detroit Weddings, Fabulous 5: Detroit's Award Winners and Artwork by Janet Anderson are among the current exhibits at the Detroit Historical Museum. All three will be on display through Labor Day.

"That's weird, seeing stuff that I own, in a museum," said Sharon Winne, a museum goer from Washington Twp., Mich. "It makes me feel old. The coverage on the news about the birthday and the celebration all week is what brought us here this week. That was good to see. But no birthday cake today. We've only been here a short time so we're excited to see what else is here. It was interesting to see the old gasoline pump because it was really something different. My grandson is named after Steve Yzerman so it was nice seeing his jersey and skates there. I hope a lot more people come from the suburbs to come down here and see what it's like. It's a nice place to spend the day."

Two new exhibits will open on September 23: Fabulous 5: Detroit Destinations and Lorenzo Cultural Center Exhibit - 1950s: Affluence and Anxiety in the Atomic Age.

The Detroit Historical Museum is located at 5401 Woodward Ave. (NW corner of Kirby) in Detroit’s Cultural Center. Extended hours from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. are being offered from July 25 - 31, 2011. Parking in the Museum’s lot is $4 at all times. For more information, call the Museum at (313) 833-1805 or check out their website at The Dossin Great Lakes Museum is located at 100 Strand Drive on Detroit's Belle Isle. Parking is free all year long in the spaces adjacent to the museum.

Related Story: Three new exhibits on display at the Detroit Historical Museum



Through more than three centuries, the people of metro Detroit have changed the cultural, social and business fabric of our nation, improving the ways in which we live, learn, work and communicate.



The museum's Past>Forward Campaign is seeking to raise $20.1 million over five years.



Monies raised will be used to build new exhibits, enhance permanent exhibits, create a new maritime exhibit, create field trip experiences and classroom resources.



A life ring and plates from the S.S. Carl D. Bradley (1927) that will be included in the new exhibit Built by the River at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.



A submachine gun along with a tank and plane model that will be included in the new exhibit Detroit: The Arsenal of Democracy.


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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Photos, Videos, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.