Journey Through Michigan’s Legacies at Enriching Museums

These nine museums bring Michigan’s rich stories to light.

Two horses pulling a carriage at Greenfield Village
Greenfield Village | Photo Courtesy of Bob Stefko

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Explore Michigan’s museums for a fresh take on the Great Lakes State’s unique heritage. A journey into the past can bring fresh perspectives on the present and spark curiosity about the future.

Begin your journey with a trip to the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor to learn about Michigan’s prehistoric past. View mastodon and dinosaur fossils unearthed in Michigan while exploring what the landscape looked like tens of millions of years ago. Continue throughout the ages to see how the plants, animals and land evolved through life-sized dioramas and immersive exhibits. 

Exterior of the Museum of Ojibwa Culture
Museum of Ojibwa Culture | Photo Courtesy of Jill Richards

On the beautiful banks of Lake Huron, the Museum of Ojibwa Culture in St. Ignace shares the legacy of the Ojibwa. Follow along as they braved peril and overcame obstacles on the journey from their home on the Atlantic Ocean to the banks of the Great Lakes in the 14th and 15th centuries. Tour a reconstructed traditional longhouse, learn about the many tools the Ojibwa used in their everyday lives and watch a video explaining their unique family networks. Before heading home, support local and browse the museum’s gift shop that offers items made by over 125 Native American and Native Canadian artists.

While he may not have been born in Michigan, Thomas Edison spent his boyhood growing up and exploring his creative and curious nature in Port Huron. At the Thomas Edison Depot Museum, housed inside of the Fort Gratiot depot where Edison worked as a news reporter, gain a new appreciation for the inventor by learning about his early life. Through hands-on displays, live science demonstrations and re-created period scenes, visitors can participate in history.

A presidential vehicle exhibit at The Henry Ford Museum
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

Dig deeper into American inventiveness with a visit to The Henry Ford in Dearborn. This historical campus offers three different attractions over 250 acres – The Henry Ford, Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory. You can spend all day exploring the inventions that shaped American life and learn about the daring actions of our country’s innovators, from the Wright brothers’ harrowing first flight to Rosa Park’s historic bus ride. Explore a slice of 19th century American life in Greenfield Village, learn about the transformation of automobile manufacturing at the Ford Rouge Factory and see a glimpse of the past’s vision of the future in a restored 1946 Dymaxion House.

No exploration of Michigan would be complete without telling the stories of Lake Superior, whose notorious waters are known to be the most unforgiving of all the Great Lakes. With an 80-mile stretch of shore known as the “Shipwreck Coast,” there is no shortage of tall tales – many of them true! At the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, you can explore nautical history as well as the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior, the Whitefish Point Light Station. Continue expanding your knowledge of the Shipwreck Coast when you step onboard the Museum Ship Valley Camp, a steamship built in 1917 that sailed the Great Lakes until 1966. This floating maritime museum near the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie holds over 100 exhibits, including two surviving lifeboats from the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, four aquariums home to native fish and restored crew cabins.

A man and woman holding hands outside of the Motown Museum
Motown Museum | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

A $65 million investment has transformed the home of Motown with a state-of-the-art facility behind the original Motown Museum on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. Take a tour led by a knowledgeable guide to glean every fascinating detail from the history of Hitsville U.S.A. You’ll tread the same floorboards as Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie as you explore the famous recording space Studio A, Berry Gordy’s apartment and the preserved offices of the birthplace of Motown.

Enrich your Michigan educational experience at the first and only museum in the U.S. devoted to Arab American history and culture in Dearborn. The Arab American National Museum connects visitors to the experiences and contributions of Arab Americans in Michigan and throughout the nation, and is also one of the Affiliates of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Through its core exhibits, visitors learn about the past achievements of the Arab world, the immigration to America beginning in the 1880s, and the important contributions of past and present Arab Americans.

Michigan’s historical legacy is one of daring exploration, progress through innovation and cultural celebration. Let Pure Michigan’s past inspire you on your next journey.