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New name: Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

What’s in a name?

A lot, according to the president of The Henry Ford in Dearborn, which has officially changed the name of its museum to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

“This has been in the works for years,” said Patricia Mooradian, who’s headed the celebrated indoor and outdoor educational complex for the past 17 years.

“There are lots of museums that feature certain aspects of innovation,” she added, “but our entire collection speaks to innovation, and that really sets us apart.” Adding the words “American Innovation” to the museum title, she noted, “clearly defines its focus.”

Part of the impetus came from surveys that revealed many visitors were foggy on the museum’s purpose.

While Michigan residents are usually in the know, Mooradian said, 35 percent of the 1.8 million visitors annually come from out of state or abroad.

“When we interviewed them,” she added, “a large majority said they thought the museum was all about Henry Ford, the man, or just the automobile.”

It’s the second rebranding the 88-year-old institution has undergone in recent years.

In 2003, all the constituent parts of the Dearborn campus — the museum, Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour — were grouped together under the rubric, The Henry Ford.

The new name for what we used to simply call the Henry Ford Museum also dovetails nicely with the PBS show, “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation,” which airs Saturdays nationwide on CBS-TV.

In Detroit, you can catch the half-hour program hosted by reporter and humorist Mo Rocca at 8 a.m. on the network’s local affiliate, Channel 62.

In part because of that exposure, Mooradian added, annual attendance increased by 200,000 visitors a year from 2014-2016.

The museum also announced it will deepen its commitment to spurring curiosity in schoolchildren by partnering with the STEMIE Coalition, as well as education-content provider Pearson, which produces textbooks and course curricula.

The former sponsors the Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo, aimed at students in grades K-12, which will now come to Michigan for the first time.

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy