Kid Rock's Big Donation One Of Many Things Happening At Detroit Historical Museum
The announcement of Kid Rock’s $250,000 donation to the Detroit Historical Museum last week gave a nice shot of publicity to the institution at Woodward and Kirby that mostly lives in the shadows of its two larger neighbors, the Detroit Public Library and the Detroit Institute of Arts.
The money will fund the Kid Rock Music Lab, an interactive space that will offer museum-goers a deep dive into the history of Detroit jazz, blues, rock, garage rock, techno, soul, gospel, hip-hop and probably other genres.
Given that music is Detroit’s second biggest export, the music lab sounds fabulous, and it’s a great step forward for the historical museum. Turns out, though, the lab is only one of only several new galleries and upgrades under construction. When the now-shuttered museum re-opens Nov. 23, it will no longer be your grandfather’s historical museum, and it will be another reason to spend time in Midtown, checking out the cultural gems.
And the museum will offer free admission.
“It will be a totally transformed physical space and a totally transformed experience,” said Bob Bury, the museum’s director.
Bury said the goals of the renovation are to make the museum more relevant, more accessible and better at telling the story of Detroit in the 20th Century.
“In the past 100 years, a lot happened in Detroit,” Bury said.
That’s an amazing understatement. Think of it: From 1900 to 2000, the city went from a mid-level manufacturing town to world-changing industrial colossus to the culturally dynamic yet hurting symbol of urban decay we know and love today.
Bury said the museum is going to travel far beyond the narrative of how “dead white men” made Detroit great.
“We want to tell an honest and non-Pollyannaish story,” he said.
What will be new?
*A Gallery of Innovation that includes Henry Ford but also lesser-known figures such as Veronika Scott, who invented a winter coat that turns into a sleeping bag for homeless people and Brownie Wise, the marketing genius who made Tupperware a household word.
*An Arsenal of Democracy exhibit that will celebrate what Detroit did to win World War II, but also discuss the war’s impact on migration, segregation, suburbanization and women in the workplace.
*Detroit and the Underground Railroad, an interactive exhibit, built like the museum’s popular Streets of Old Detroit, that will let visitors understand the experience of a slave escaping to Canada.
*The Hall of Culture, which will tell the big stories that made Detroit great from 1900 to 2000, cutting the century into quarters to cover music, sports, entertainment, architecture, retailing and the arts, plus a display of “Six Days that Shaped Detroit” -- significant 24-hour periods in city history.
*The Detroit Legends Plaza, outside the museum, a collection of a couple dozen handprints and signatures of legendary personalities from Lilly Tomlin to Derek May, the techno inventor.
On top of the new stuff, the museum will update such popular exhibits as the Motor City, Frontiers to Factories, Street of Old Detroit and Glancy trains. There will be new carpeting and lighting, plus a much bigger presence on line.
Behind all of this renovation, of course, is the evolving story of the museum operating without the city of Detroit’s funding or administration. Since 2006, the Detroit Historical Society has been in charge, though the city owns the building and the historical artifacts.
With money from the city disappearing, the historical society in 2009 launched a $21 million fundraising campaign. So far, it has raised $14.9 million.
“We’re encouraged and eager to complete to raise the rest of the money,” Bury said.
Kid Rock’s cash helps, and Bury said he hope Rock’s high-profile donation will inspire other people of means who love Detroit to help the museum better tell the city’s amazing story.
Given all the new things in the museum, will the Kid Rock Music Lab contain a stripper pole, as the stages sometimes do at his concerts?
“No,” he said. “We’re not going to do that.”