The Collections

Antique Crystal Chandeliers Find a New Home in Lovett Hall 

Exhibit Fabricators Rob Brown and Kent Ehrle carefully removed the chandelier arms after Electrician Paul Desana disconnected electrical power to the arms. The center portion of the chandelier was then lowered into the lift and handed to a group of waiting staff who moved it to the conservation labs on a custom-made cart.

Exhibit Fabricators Rob Brown and Kent Ehrle carefully removed the chandelier arms after Electrician Paul Desana disconnected electrical power to the arms. The center portion of the chandelier was then lowered into the lift and handed to a group of waiting staff who moved it to the conservation labs on a custom-made cart.

In 2014 conservation, facilities and exhibit staff members removed two English crystal chandeliers from the museum shop in Henry Ford Museum in preparation for the upcoming renovation. The chandeliers, which were made in Birmingham, England between 1860 and 1880, had been in the shop for many years and were showing signs of age. The silver portions were heavily tarnished and the metal wires that held the crystals were corroded and brittle. We decided to conserve them prior to their move to a new home in a rather dark lounge just outside of the Lovett Hall Ballroom, where their glittering, cut-glass elegance would be appreciated. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Plant Samples

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One popular line of inquiry received by the Benson Ford Research Center involves Henry Ford’s interest in ensuring a constant and affordable supply of rubber for Ford Motor Company by establishing rubber plantations in Brazil, first at Fordlandia, and then at Belterra. Not surprisingly, our collections hold quite a bit of related material.  W.L. Reeves Blakeley led the expedition to find the site that would later become Fordlandia, and, after Ford purchased the tract of 2.5 million acres, supervised the team that did the initial clearing. The W.L. Reeves Blakeley collection at The Henry Ford contains documentation of experiments, test papers, printed material, a few tools, and plant samples—the latter of which we’ve just digitized, including this sample of “maleo caetano” collected in 1931.  Visit our digital collections to see all 15 plant samples, along with additional photos of Fordlandia and Belterra.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Henry Ford and Reincarnation

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Earlier this year I introduced readers to a small collection of artifacts unofficially known as Henry Ford Tributes. As I mentioned earlier, a few of these objects have some pretty amazing backstories. The wall hanging, shown above, is one such example. One may not think that Henry Ford and the subject of reincarnation could appear together in the same sentence but the fact is Henry Ford was an advocate of transmigration, stating in many interviews that he became a believer at the age of 26. He had earlier been given a copy of Orlando J. Smith’s book A Short View of Great Questions, originally published in 1899. The theories expressed therein regarding reincarnation and the tenets of a religion the author termed Eternalism seemed to answer some of the life questions that had begun to occupy the automaker’s thoughts. It also curiously coincides with the work ethic of Henry Ford as well as his definition of greatness. Continue reading

Conservation of Flood-Damaged Upholstered Furniture

Water had dripped from the ceiling onto the right corners of the back and seat, leaving water stains with dark tidelines at the edges.

Water had dripped from the ceiling onto the right corners of the back and seat, leaving water stains with dark tidelines at the edges.

In August 2014, the metropolitan Detroit area experienced heavy rains and flooding, and several artifacts in Henry Ford Museum’s furniture display were damaged by water and debris. Two of the artifacts were upholstered, and required extensive conservation treatment to stabilize them and make them suitable for continued exhibit. A generous grant from The Americana Foundation enabled conservators to accomplish this work.

Our “Turkish Settee” is part of a suite of furniture dating from 1885-1895. Its elaborate original fabrics and trimmings are faded and somewhat fragile, but it makes an important statement about the style of the times, so preserving them is important. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: 1952 Ferrari 212 Barchetta Images

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Something that may not be widely known outside the museum world is how much collaboration and cooperation goes on between cultural heritage institutions. As an example, Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, was recently approached by the Petersen Automotive Museum about a 1952 Ferrari 212 Barchetta originally given to Henry Ford II by Enzo Ferrari, now in the collections of the Petersen. The Barchetta served as one of the design inspirations for the 1955 Ford Thunderbird, and was exhibited from time to time in the past at special car shows in Henry Ford Museum. When our staff dug into our archives, they found more than two dozen vintage photographs of the car, including this shot showing the sleek lines of the vehicle from the side. We provided these images to the Petersen, which will enhance their curation of this fine vehicle, and in addition have posted them to our digital collections for anyone to access and enjoy.

If you’d like to know more about the Barchetta, you can watch an interview with Petersen chief curator Leslie Kendall and a road test of the car in this episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, or you can check out all of our digitized Barchetta images by visiting our collections website.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: American West Imagery

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We do a lot of preparatory research in our collections for each episode of our television series, The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation.  Sometimes, we find things that we weren’t expecting. That happened recently, when in investigating material related to food wagons, our registrar Lisa Korzetz recalled an image in our collection of a chuck wagon.  Accompanying the chuck wagon photo, we found about a dozen more photographs of the American West in the 19th century, many in the Wyoming Territory, taken by the Dalgliesh Photo Studio and given to The Henry Ford in 1930 by George Dalgliesh, one of the photographers.  The photos are an amazing record of everyday cowboy and ranch life in the West, so we’ve digitized all of them, including this image of the romantically named “Robbers Roost Road Ranch.” View all these newly digitized Western images by visiting our collections website.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Gunsolly Carding Mill Images

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John Gunsolly operated what is now known as the Gunsolly Carding Mill in Plymouth, Michigan, beginning around 1850.  Henry Ford reportedly remembered childhood visits to the mill with his father, delivering wool, and in 1929 he moved the building to Greenfield Village.  We’ve just digitized 60 images of the building on its original site and throughout its history in the Village, like this one, showing power loom operation in the building (then called the Plymouth Carding Mill) in 1935.  Today, visitors to The Henry Ford can see traditional weaving in action in Liberty Craftworks’ Weaving Shop, itself a former cotton mill.  See more images of Gunsolly by visiting our digital collections.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Fermi 1 Artifacts

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Curator of Public Life Donna Braden has used the phrase “bottomless pit of wonderfulness” to describe The Henry Ford’s collections, because they are so vast and so full of significant artifacts. One downside of the amazing quantity and quality of our holdings is that only a very small percentage are on display on our campus at any given time. However, we are often able to get some of these artifacts out of storage and on public display by loaning them to other museums and institutions. We currently have over 200 artifacts on loan, and about 60 of these can be viewed through our digital collections as well. One such item is this radiation portal monitor, used at Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant (Fermi 1), which is on loan to Monroe County Community College in Monroe, Mich., for an exhibit about the plant. See more artifacts related to Fermi 1 (a number of them also on loan), and view thousands of objects, documents, and photographs not currently on public display, by visiting our digital collections.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

IMLS Update: Removing Copper Corrosion

Copper corrosion on a typewriter ink reel.

Copper corrosion on a typewriter ink reel.

Our IMLS Grant Conservation staff uses scientific and aesthetic training to conserve, clean and repair a large number of Communications collections. A familiar problem we often encounter is copper “rust” that disfigures objects. Conservators call these damages “corrosion products”. The corrosion is actually “eating” the metal as it forms on a range of object types. Copper corrosion products form on copper and copper alloys (like brass) through chemical reactions that are initiated by contact with various materials nearby and from the air pollution. Nearby materials that corrosion include fatty acids in waxes and leather dressing, sulfur in rubber products, or salts in water or human sweat. Copper corrosion products vary greatly. They can be very waxy or hard and mineralized or soft and powdery, depending on what caused it. Continue reading

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Firestone Farm Images

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One of the most beloved areas of Greenfield Village just celebrated an anniversary: June 29, 2015, marked 30 years since Firestone Farm (both the farmhouse and the barn) was dedicated at The Henry Ford, with luminaries like Gerald Ford, seen here, speaking at the ceremony.  Built in 1828, this Ohio farmhouse was where businessman Harvey Firestone was brought up.  Today in Greenfield Village, it is a key living history destination, where visitors can see crops being grown, food preparation following 19th century methods, and livestock being raised.  As part of our continuing project to digitize material related to Village buildings, we’ve just digitized 185 images from our collections related to Firestone Farm—the cornerstone ceremony, the dedication, and over 100 images of the farm on its original site.  View all Firestone Farm–related items by visiting our collections website.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

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