Meghan O'Gieblyn at The Point:
Greenfield Village describes itself as a “living history” museum. Unlike most museums, where artifacts are displayed in vitrines, the park is emphatically “hands on.” Not only can you visit a nineteenth-century print shop where a man dressed in overalls operates a proof press with real ink, you can also attend one of the interactive workshops and make antique broadsides with your own two hands. On that summer morning, the Village was alive with the bustle of people making things. There were men tinkering in workshops, bent over bootjacks. There were women in calico dresses peddling flax wheels and kneading actual bread dough to be baked in functional coal ovens.
The park, completed in 1929, was the vanity project of Henry Ford, a man who years earlier had declared that “history is more or less bunk.” Later, he would clarify: written history was bunk, because it focused on politicians and military heroes rather than the common men who built America. Greenfield Village was his correction to the historical narrative. It was a place designed to celebrate the inventor, the farmer and the agrarian landscape that had given rise to self-made men like him. Ford had a number of historically significant buildings relocated to the park, including the Wright brothers’ cycle shop and Thomas Edison’s laboratory, both of which still stand on its grounds. But the park was never really about history—not, at least, in any objective sense.