New Detroit Historical Museum Exhibit Explores 100 Years of Orchestra Hall

Throughout the century that it has stood on Woodward Avenue, Orchestra Hall has been part of Detroit’s cultural story, which is being told through April 26 in a new Detroit Historical Museum exhibit entitled, “100 Years of Music, Magic, and Community.”
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dress and tuxedo in the "100 Years of Music, Magic, and Community" exhibit
An exhibit featuring Orchestra Hall is on display at the Detroit Historical Museum through April 26. // Photo courtesy of the Detroit Historical Museum

Throughout the century that it has stood on Woodward Avenue, Orchestra Hall has been part of Detroit’s cultural story, which is being told through April 26 in a new Detroit Historical Museum exhibit entitled, “100 Years of Music, Magic, and Community.”

Free with museum general admission, the exhibit features artifacts, images, and audio that begin with the construction of Orchestra Hall and follow its history to modern day.

Built as the home for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1919, converted to the Paradise Theatre in the 1940s, threatened with demolition in the 1970s, and later restored and expanded, the building’s history tells the complex economic and cultural story of Detroit in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Items on display include original seats from Orchestra Hall, a re-created 1920s coat room, and a mold of Ossip Gabrilowitsch’s hand from the collection of the Detroit Public Library.  Gabrilowitsch is the DSO music director for whom Orchastra Hall was built. The exhibit also includes hand-sculpted busts of all the DSO lead music directors and rarely seen art, architectural records, and press clippings from the DSO’s archives.

It also tells the story of what happened in the years after the Detroit Symphony Orchestra moved to Ford Auditorium and new audiences adopted the structure for new purposes, breathing new life into the space. The exhibit allows visitors to learn about the rebirth of Orchestra Hall for a new age and how it serves the community today while looking ahead to tomorrow. They can become immersed in history as they listen to music, watch videos, and try their hand at conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at an interactive stage, according to museum officials.

The exhibition was developed by the Detroit Historical Society in partnership with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with assistance from Mark Stryker, creative consultant to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and author of “Destiny: 100 Years of Music, Magic, and Community at Orchestra Hall in Detroit” and “Jazz from Detroit.” It is underwritten by the DTE Energy Foundation and Ann and James B. Nicolson with additional support from the Ford Motor Co. Fund.

The Detroit Historical Museum, located at 5401 Woodward Ave. in midtown Detroit, is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission ranges from $6 to $10 and is free for Detroit Historical Society members and children under 6. Parking in the museum’s lot is $9.

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