As the LEAP ambassadors’ research drew to a close, still more adventures await them on the road. Although the various activities we got to engage in on the way to Detroit were elucidating and interesting, the true focus of our trip was as stated previously, to help Jeff Guinn in researching the Vagabonds.
For that effort, from Monday to Thursday, we followed the same routine; getting to the Henry Ford Museum’s research library around 9 a.m., researching for a few hours, getting lunch with Mr. Guinn and Mr. Fuquay, researching some more, and finally spending an hour touring the museum or the adjacent Greenfield Village.
This was a phenomenal opportunity to see a best-selling author in the research environment. Additionally, we got to hear many stories and see many amazing artifacts.
One highlight was being taken back into the conservation section of the Henry Ford, where we were shown a Lincoln refrigerated truck that was being restored.
Incredibly, this was the very refrigerated truck that Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and Thomas Edison had taken along with them on a few of their camping trips! We got to stand next to real history, and see how the team of the Henry Ford is working to preserve and restore such artifacts for future generations to enjoy.
Another special treat was being able to help Jeff Guinn pick out pictures for his book from the Henry Ford’s digital collection.
We sat down and looked through 231 pictures, narrowing these down to about 40. Mr. Guinn will look through other sources before settling on which ones he wants to see appear in the book. At that point, the marketing team for Simon & Schuster, Mr. Guinn’s publisher, will dissect his choices, and they will make the final decisions.
During our breaks, where we could wander freely in the museums. Following our first day, which we spent focusing primarily on the Beatles Exhibit and automobiles in the Henry Ford Museum, we spent the last couple of days looking over planes, civil rights exhibits, Americana, and even furniture.
Henry Ford Museum
But this was no ordinary furniture; many of the pieces were owned by highly accomplished gentlemen. We saw a desk used by Edgar Allen Poe for most of his adult life, for example. It is possible that some of the stories and poems that are so loved today, like “The Raven,” “The Telltale Heart,” or “The Pit and the Pendulum,” were scribed at this very desk.
We also got to see John Hancock’s card table and Mark Twain’s writing table!
In the planes section, the Museum had a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane…
…and a little known Ford plane, which never really proved successful commercially.
In the Americana section, they had a copy of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”….
… and the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated.
As the above suggests, some of the artifacts were unusual, even unsettling.
On a more inspirational level, the Museum had the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to take a back seat, both literally and metaphorically.
Amazingly, people were even allowed to sit in the seat she refused to relinquish. The Museum also had guidelines of the “Montgomery Improvement Association” (led by Martin Luther King, Jr.) distributed to African Americans which helped them stand for their rights without putting themselves or others in undue danger.
Finally though, Thursday afternoon rolled around, and our time at the Henry Ford drew to a close. We said our goodbyes to Jeff Guinn and Jim Fuquay while thanking them for giving us the opportunity to work with them for a week.
Besides being a great researcher and a great teacher, he is a very personable and amiable man, who really does love his work. The joy he takes in his research is reflected in both his books and in his interactions with others. After spending a week with Jeff Guinn, you can’t help but be interested in whatever subject he’s writing about!