Driving America wins an award!

The Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) presents an annual award for excellence in museum exhibits. Driving America, the major automobile exhibit I worked on recently, was honored with the organization’s 2012 award. The exhibit team is thrilled! This photo wasn’t our celebration of the award. In fact, this was taken before the project was completed, and I don’t remember what we were celebrating. But who needs a reason to celebrate?

This was the main content development team—one of many teams that worked on various aspects of the project. The photos we’re holding up at the far end of the room are of the two people most responsible for the overarching content and themes of the exhibit—Donna Braden and Bob Casey. I don’t know why they weren’t there, but we were NOT celebrating their absence. Really, I swear. One thing you might notice is that the team is almost entirely women. HA! Take that, car guys everywhere!

This is the citation as printed in the program for the awards ceremony, held during the organization’s annual meeting–this year in Copenhagen. And no, I didn’t get to go to the ceremony. Dang.

Dibner Award for Excellence in Museum Exhibits
Driving America, The Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan

“The history of technology has long suffered an almost exclusively production-oriented perspective.  This is also a pertinent problem for museums of the history of technology, as artifacts of technology, the predominating exhibits on display, represent this production side.  It is an ingenious idea of the Henry Ford Museum to attempt to reverse this logic and focus on the use of technology and how it shaped society.  This is a particularly productive topic in the case of car history.

“Driving America explores the ways in which cars have transformed how we work, play, eat, and live.  It examines how we have adapted the automobile to our needs as well as how we have changed our world to adapt to the automobile’s needs.  This approach makes visible that choices are involved in the use of technology.  Moreover, visitors are challenged to think about how the choices we make today will affect the mobility of future generations.

“The exhibit successfully engages, entertains, and educates the general public, all of whom are familiar with automobiles, even if in many cases, without ever having thought about the car’s centrality in American civilization.  Driving America offers much for car buffs, who justly expect to see both rare and historically significant cars on their visit to the Henry Ford, which they would know has one of the most important automobile collections in the country.

“Driving America is what we would all expect as the winner of this prize: it is in a technology museum, exploring materials at the core of their collection.  The exhibit was able to display curatorial voice and selection with effective results. The Dibner committee would like to commend the curatorial team for Driving America, which does a masterful job of explaining the evolving role of the automobile in American life and the evolving technology and design of the automobile.”

Driving America opening photos

As promised, a few photos of the Driving America opening last night. We didn’t take very many–too many people to talk to, too much going on! For some other photos, here’s a link to the Detroit News story. And yes, that’s me and my brother pictured and quoted in the article. Wall Street Journal also did a nice review, but no photos.

Me and Bob Casey

Curator of Transportation Bob Casey, me, and the 1865 Roper Steam Carriage.

One of several touch-screen interactives designed by Cortina Productions. In this one you learn to drive a Model T and have to navigate around several challenges, including cattle on the road. I led the concept development team for the interactives.

Hot Rods

Hot rods and cool customs

customs case

Low-profile cases in the exhibit provide cultural context. This one is on custom cars, and features artifacts and images from well-known customizers Chuck Miller and the Alexander Brothers.

My brother, Command Sgt Major John Seelhorst, and I talked with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood at the event.

Driving America will open soon

The new Driving America exhibit opens to the public on Sunday. I worked with the staff of The Henry Ford, exhibit designer Kevin Patten (Creative Flow Studio), and interactive and film producer Cortina Productions for the last year and a half to help make this happen. It’s getting some good press! Check this out.

Tony is off in Portugal doing something for Car and Driver, so I’m taking my brother to the opening party on Saturday. I’ll post some photos.

My friends Kent and Greg put the finishing touches on a case along the timeline.