We recently had the pleasure to ask Bob Bury, Detroit Historical Society Executive Director and CEO, a few questions about the museum and how Detroit inspires him.
Tell us what’s coming up at the museum:
Well you know 2017 is a big year for the city. There’s been a lot of big years for the city. Certainly the bankruptcy and all the things that have come into fruition over the last several years. But this is really a big starting point for us because it really marks 50 years since 1967 and many people will remember 1967 as, quite frankly, a very bad year. It was a very troubling year in the city, but also across America if you think about some of the things that happened in the sixties. Detroit, of course, underwent a tremendous civil unrest and there’s a 50 year commemoration coming up and we’re taking that opportunity to not just look back at the bad times, but to ask what did we learn and what can we do differently as we move forward and bring the community together around the effects of that crisis to find out place in the present and inspire the future.
We also recognize that it’s a regional story. It’s just not about the city it’s about the region and I think the more we come together as a region the better we’ll define a future that realizes our full potential. So we’re going outside the museum walls as well. We’re doing a variety of programming with partners but we’re also doing things in the neighborhoods because Detroit’s neighborhoods are, as many of us know, have a lot of need, have a lot of news for improvements. It’s important to us that we engage the neighborhoods in this process as well so a real key part that we’re very excited about that will happen in July of 2017 is we’re going to Gordon Park. Gordon Park at 12th and Clairmount, that’s where it began. So how do you take this as an opportunity to give some new life to this park? Bring the community together and use it as a point of inspiration in starting over for that neighborhood. And we’ll be working on other place-making initiatives around the city as well, so it’s important that even if you don’t come to the museum you take this opportunity in 2017 as a starting point and an opportunity to come together for the future.
Are there any other projects or initiatives going on in and around the city that you’re excited about?
You know, I’m in a really good position because I can see a lot of those projects right outside my window. I see the Q-Line (M-1 Rail) almost ready to go in front of our building which is really exciting. Of course, it’s transportation but as we all know it’s been such a catalyst for investment and bringing new people into the area. What you see outside the window today is totally different than what you saw outside the window three years ago and it’s all very, very positive. So I’m encouraged by the continual investment that we see in Downtown and Midtown But, I’m also very encouraged by what we see in the neighborhoods and what we see from groups that are stepping up to address the issue of illiteracy, address the important issues of mentoring young people so they can take an active part in Detroit’s future. And I’m encouraged by the fact that suburbanites who proudly said they hadn’t been in the museum or other places in Detroit for decades now are eager to come back and our attendance, the amount of people, the types of people, city people, suburban people, people that never left, people that left a long time ago, coexist and really are taking great pride and great optimism in Detroit’s future.
One of the other aspects of 2017 and moving forward is all about leadership and we’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in leadership in Detroit and southeast Michigan over the past decades. So we’re really focused on how can we use ‘Detroit ’67: Looking Back to MOVE FORWARD’ to look leadership going forward because people like me aren’t going to be around forever and it’s really important that that next generation of leadership is brought to the table today so they can formulate ideas that can bring us forward, benefit from the experience of myself and other community leaders who have been at the table a long time and are in a position to really lead so our community realizes our full potential.
Rene Cizio is an account manager at Franco. Follow her on Twitter @ReneCizio.