Progress has a side effect: things that were once new and wondrous inevitably become routine. For example, a little over 50 years ago, it was a pipe dream to imagine driving down a single multi-lane freeway from Toronto to Windsor, crossing the border at the Ambassador Bridge, and taking Interstate 94 to reach Dearborn, Michigan, four hours after you started.
Today, this drive is so commonplace that we focus more on traffic delays and the surly inquisitions of border guards than we do on the fact that the road exists in the first place.
Giving it a second thought certainly never crossed my mind when I found myself following the same path on a frigid day in January on my way to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.
I arrived lackadaisically on an icy morning in January when, frankly, staying cozy in bed with a cup of tea seemed like a better idea. But I had committed to meeting some colleagues, so I showed up thinking that I’d say hello to them, see a few cool cars, read some history about the Ford Motor Company that I already knew, and leave after an hour.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Henry Ford is much more than a company archive or even a car museum. It’s a recorded history of every aspect of motoring in America, from the evolution of the automobile to the origins of the Interstate system, the advent of drive-through fast food culture, and the impact all of this change has had on society.
And that’s just in the Driving America section, one of nine different areas devoted to various aspects of American history in innovation.
After squeezing every minute I could spare out of the visit, I was left reflecting on just how quickly the world around us has changed and wishing I’d dedicated many more hours to exploring the displays. In fact, a day is probably not enough to absorb every detail the museum holds.
There are only two things that disappointed me about my visit: one, that I didn’t give myself enough time – as I said, you really could spend an entire day here and still not take in everything on offer – and two, that I came in the winter.
In the summer, there’s even more to see next door in Greenfield Village, including historically accurate recreations of working farms, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, the Wright brothers’ workshop, and an everyday Main Street, complete with a ride in a Model T.
I left that day with a renewed amazement for the achievements of humanity and how far we’ve come in the blink of an eye since the industrial revolution. It’s a steady foundation from which to look ahead at the world-changing innovations coming at us in the automotive and technology industries every day.