November 23, 2012

Detroit history museum retooled after 50 years

The site has new tributes to sports, pop culture, movies and the famous Motor City music scene.

The Associated Press

DETROIT - The Detroit Historical Museum is reopening with a bang, six months after the venerable institution in the city's cultural center closed up shop to undergo its first major renovation in a half-century.

Starting at 9:30 a.m. Friday, the new-look DHM will stay open for 55.5 consecutive hours free of charge to anyone who wants to take a look.

What they'll find is very different from what it looked like the last time around.

Better than 70 percent of the museum's exhibitions have been re-imagined as part of the $12 million refurbishment -- the first major renovations to the facility since the 1960s and "a redefining moment for this museum," Bob Bury, CEO and executive director of the Detroit Historical Society, said Wednesday.

In addition to new or enhanced exhibits, the 80,000-square-foot facility also has new lighting, carpeting and wall treatments.

"You can look things up on the Internet, but at the end of the day, you want to see them in person," Bury said, while standing in the Allesee Gallery of Culture, which highlights Detroit-themed pop culture and sports artifacts of the past century, including newly restored neon signage that once hung at the entrance to old Tiger Stadium.

Through a set of glass doors from the Allesee Gallery is an exhibit sure to please fans of Detroit's rich musical history.

The Kid Rock Music Lab -- made possible through a $250,000 donation from the hometown rock star's foundation -- features an exploration of a century's worth of Motor City music. Aretha Franklin, Eminem, the White Stripes, Bob Seger, the MC5, Iggy Pop and the Motown sound all are represented inside the lab. The interactive exhibit allows guests to mix their own music and test their Detroit music knowledge.

Other new displays include "Detroit: 'The Arsenal of Democracy,"' which explores the ways Detroit shaped the outcome of World War II (one memorable holding is a case filled with 303,237 rivets -- the number needed to build one B-24 bomber) and the outdoor Legends Plaza.

The plaza sits at the museum's entrance and features the handprints and signatures from two-dozen of Detroit's biggest names. Among them are Lions great Barry Sanders, Tigers legend Al Kaline, famed crime novelist Elmore Leonard and shock rocker Alice Cooper, who not only signed his name in the cement, but also placed a rubber snake in it, leaving his onstage trademark reptile there for eternity.

In addition to the around-the-clock opportunities this weekend to check out all that's new exhibit-wise, museum officials also are welcoming visitors to check out some older, but decidedly Detroit-centric films on the big screen.

Night owls can take in a classic Detroit flick late Friday and early Saturday in the museum's 120-seat Booth Auditorium.

The movie marathon kicks off with a screening of "Detroit Rock City" at 10 p.m. and ends with "Grosse Pointe Blank" at 7:30 a.m.


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