archives, Beer Tasting, collection, Museum

Moving into the next era…

Here at the museum, there’s always something to keep us busy. If we aren’t taking people through one of our historic buildings or helping researchers look up records in our archives we’re always finding something that needs doing!

One of the projects that has been ongoing here at the museum is digitizing our collections. For the most part, this is done as we re-inventory; we record an item and its location, take a picture of it, and then enter both into our museum management computer program. (See our more detailed post about our inventorying effort here).

But, not all of the museum’s collections are 3D artifacts and so aren’t included in our efforts to re-inventory. The Dearborn Historical Museum boasts an extensive archives in the McFadden-Ross House. Currently, our archives serves the Dearborn community by facilitating research and providing a historic look at Dearborn and its people. One of our goals for digitizing our collections, including the archives, is making it easier for people to access them. The viability of a small museum is tied to how well it makes itself available to the public. Updating our digital records is just the first step. The next step is getting it available for viewing for members over the internet. It would be so fantastic to be able to share so much of our collection with people so easily and to be able to share our history with a much wider audience.

Updating the museum is not just confined to digitizing our collections. It also means making sure we are providing programs and exhibits that are interesting and informative to everyone; from children to adults, Dearborn residents to out-of-towners.

To address this incentive, the museum has been working on many new and exciting events. In this year alone, the museum has added many events and even brought back popular ones. The most exciting of these events is the Dearborn Historical Museum’s First Annual Beer Tasting! The Beer Tasting will feature Michigan brewery Kuhnhenn with select beers and wines and Detroit BBQ for all kinds of delicious food. Visitors will be able to try all kinds of great beer, wine, root beer (for the kids or those who don’t drink) and food and listen to a live band. We’re hoping this event is a popular one and will be around for years to come!

Through these efforts, the museum is increasing its visibility and its accessibility. It’s so exciting to be here during this time. Our history is meeting our present technology to propel us into the future!

collection, Memorial Day Parade, Model T

Dearborn Tradition

May is almost over and you know what that means; the Dearborn Memorial Day Parade is almost here! This year is Dearborn’s 89th Memorial Day Parade and is the longest running Memorial Day Parade in Michigan.
For years, the Dearborn Historical Museum has taken part in this Dearborn tradition by driving the Model Ts down Michigan Avenue and waving to all the celebrating Dearbornites.

And this year is going to be no different!

To make this happen means putting in some extra work. Keeping the museum’s Model Ts safe, means not driving them around needlessly in our unpredictable Michigan weather. But as anyone with a car can tell you, letting the car sit for too long can cause all sorts of problems. That’s where our intrepid volunteer Tom Saroglia comes in.

"When gas sits too long it rots. You can smell it!"
“When gas sits too long it rots. You can smell it!”

Tom’s job today is performing general maintenance on the museum’s Model Ts and get them in tip-top performance for the parade. The most important job he will do today is changing out the old gas already in the engines with new gas.

The problem with old gas is that it gets thick and gunky. This is caused by oxidation– air gets into the fuel and changes the nature of the gas. This gunk can block up the fuel lines, the carburetor, filters, anywhere the gas travels there is a potential for blockage. Old gas can not only cause a car to run poorly, but can stop it altogether if left untreated.

Thank goodness Tom is here to make sure this doesn’t happen!

When asked about how he likes working on the Model Ts, Tom replied “They built this car for the common man; just some farmer who could have it in his backyard and tinker with it. It’s a simple car. It’s a wonderful car! If kept up, it’ll run forever!”

Hard at work
Hard at work

With Tom’s help and volunteers like him, it’s our hope here at the Dearborn Historical Museum that our Model Ts will run forever so that we can take part in the great Dearborn tradition: the Memorial Day Parade!

collection, What is it?

What is it?!

In addition to our monthly behind the scenes blogs, the museum is also introducing “What is it?” posts.
These posts will explore items from the museum’s collections; artifacts that are unusual or are things that people just don’t use any more.

Can you figure out what these mysterious items were used for? Here’s the first one, GOOD LUCK!

Rapid Washer

This item has a wooden handle that is about 35″ long with a metal cone attached at its base. On the wooden handle, there is a hand rest about a foot from the top that sticks out perpendicular and is about 4 1/2″ long. The metal cone is stamped with a maker’s mark, is 7 1/2″ long and has a diameter of 8 1/2″. The inside of the metal cone is separated by other metal pieces that have holes drilled into them.
All together, the item is a little over three feet tall and is fairly light.


Hint: the metal is rusted.


Our collection

The Dearborn Historical Museum is home to thousands of artifacts from the early pioneer days to the present day. Everything from large farming equipment to delicate textiles; if it came from Dearborn or belonged to someone from Dearborn, it’s our job to take care of it. The biggest difficulty with housing a collection this robust is knowing where everything is!

Right now, the museum is in the process of a massive re-inventory. Volunteers and staff work together to make sure we have not only a hard-copy, but also a digital-copy of every artifact in our collection. It’s a big task, but it’s important that it gets done. Re-inventorying tell us exactly where everything is, what condition it’s in, and how many of a specific item we have. Knowing this information helps us plan new exhibits so we can share our collection with you!


First, a member of our staff or a volunteer (pictured here is Tom Saroglia, one of our regular volunteers) takes an un-inventoried artifact and looks for any identifying numbers, called accession numbers. An accession number shows the year an artifact was donated and which part it was of a specific donation. If an accession number can’t be found, we give the artifact an “NA” number or un-accession number. This allows us to keep track of which artifacts we need to look at again or research. This is also the time when staff can determine if we have too many of a certain artifact– more than three of a clothes iron is two too many that we can’t use!

Next, we photograph the artifacts. This allows us to look up items and see them without having to touch them, saving the items from damaging oils in our hands. Having a digital photograph also helps us when the artifacts are entered into our computer network. When we search for items from a certain era or type, we can see all of them. This is a great help when trying to put together exhibits, doing research, or locating the artifact in the storage areas.


Once the artifact’s number has been sorted out and its been photographed, it’s given a tag with its number written on it so it can be quickly identified and shelved. Then, it’s on to the next artifact! Given the museum’s extensive collection, we don’t expect to finish the re-inventorying for some time, but having everything organized makes other museum work much easier.

Nice, neat and organized!
Nice, neat and organized!