Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Henry Ford

Today we went to The Henry Ford Museum[^]. We only had enough time to do the factory tour and see most of the museum. Tomorrow we go back to see the Greenfield Village.

I remember reading a history of of the Ford empire half a dozen years ago; fascinating stuff though I fear it was mostly forgotten by the time we arrived here in Detroit. (I note with satisfaction that I *did* remember to return the volume to Heino - if I had a dollar for every book I've ever loaned and never seen again...). It was a history rather than a biography of Henry himself; it covered more than the one generation.

So we did the Ford Rouge Factory tour[^] first.

They ushered us into two theatres, one after the other. In the first we were treated to a potted history of the Ford Motor Company as written by the Ford Motor Company. Sonya said, afterwards, that she could hear me cringe! She wasn't wrong. I was particularly interested in the way they glossed over the transition from the Battle of the Overpass[^] to the grudging acceptance of the Union Movement[^]. Of course I saw that glossing from a leftist viewpoint; you thought I'd see it from a right wing perspective?

The second theatre is billed as a 'multimedia experience'. Maybe 9 screens surrounded us and the seating swivels through 360 degrees. They run the movie, shake the floor and at appropriate times blow various metallic smells into the room or spray the audience with water! Interestingly I noticed that whatever image appeared on the screen to my right was sure to appear right in front of me a few seconds later. When we entered all the seats faced thataway; when we left they mostly still did. I reckon it'd be an interesting experiment to swivel all the seats to point at any abitrary point and see how many of them still pointed that way at the end of a showing!

Personally I found the tour somewhat disappointing. I think the problem is that I know there's *much* more to car production than what we were shown, which is the final assembly. You get to walk about on catwalks suspended 20 or 30 feet above the production floor and what you see is a bunch of people installing speakers into doors. Maybe the fact that I've done that for a living took some of the shine off it but frankly I'd have been much more interested in seeing a block of steel being turned into a cylinder block. That'd be something worth seeing!

I imagine most of the visitors leave imagining they've seen car production in action, with nary a thought toward the incredible logistics involved in the machinery to make it all happen; they focus on the output and don't see the need to have the parts arrive at the correct places at the correct time.

Sonya was amazed at how clean the production floor was. I wasn't :-)

After the tour, which was, don't mistake me, worth seeing, we repaired to lunch and thence to the Museum itself. Now there's a monument to all the piston builders and flywheel spinners that ever lived! Quite brought out the geek in me; especially the nineteenth century steam engines retrieved from nineteenth century British fabric mills. One in particular sticks in my mind; built in 1821 and retired from service in 1929! One can't but think of generations of badly paid workers slaving away to make the mill owners rich! Dammit, there I go again, being a lefty pinko commie bastard! :-)

They shooed us out at 5! 4 hours of sunshine left and the place closes! So we went for a drive in to downtown Detroit. Not the most inspiring downtown I've ever seen and I'm a city boy.

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