The industrial heritage attraction known as AutoWorld, which opened in downtown Flint in July 1984, was intended to lure businesses and tourists to a struggling city. Yet just six months after opening, AutoWorld closed. This essay explores AutoWorld’s creation, its exhibits, and why audiences rejected it. I argue that this “half museum” and “half theme park” prioritized the auto industry’s agenda and white suburbanites over the needs of Flint residents. In doing so, I trace the connections between AutoWorld and the Flint Water Crisis, the origins of which are partially rooted in the subsidization of the auto industry’s expansion to the Flint suburbs. Because of misguided planning initiatives like AutoWorld, as well as the criminal enabling of the water crisis, the foundation of trust between Flint residents and those who operate the city’s institutions has been severely weakened.
Building a “Stately Pleasure Dome”: AutoWorld and Postindustrial Urban Planning in Flint, Michigan
Andrea A. Burns is an associate professor and director of the public history program at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. She teaches undergraduate and graduate classes that range from material culture, to museum education, to memory and trauma in public history. She received her PhD in History from the University of Minnesota. She has interned, volunteered, and collaborated with numerous public history organizations, including the Immigration History Research Center, Minnesota History Day, the Itasca County Historical Society, and the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum. Her book, From Storefront to Monument: Tracing the Public History of the Black Museum Movement, was published in 2013 by the University of Massachusetts Press, and won the “Best Book Award” from the National Council on Public History in 2015.
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Andrea A. Burns; Building a “Stately Pleasure Dome”: AutoWorld and Postindustrial Urban Planning in Flint, Michigan. The Public Historian 23 October 2020; 42 (4): 63–96. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2020.42.4.63
Download citation file: