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Heard on CultureShift

The Motown Museum is Back: Social Distancing, a New Exhibit and a Slice of Detroit History

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Image credit: Ryan Patrick Hooper

Motown Museum CEO Robin Terry talks reduced capacity in the COVID-19 era and how a photo exhibit from former in-house photographer Jim Hendin reflects the demands for social change today.

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A trip to the Motown Museum will be different these days.

After a four-month shutdown due to COVID-19, the historic recording studio turned museum located on West Grand Boulevard reopened this week with a “reimagined” experience that complies with new safety rules and precautions.  

Motown has always been the sound of young America.” — Robin Terry, CEO of the Motown Museum

There is a magic that people come to expect in their experience at Hitsville and really taking that step back in time to see what this musical phenomenon was all about,” said Robin Terry, Chairman and CEO of the Motown Museum. “With all the newest protocols, our biggest concern was thinking about how do we navigate people through our space and how do we layer on all these additional safety protocols without sucking that magic out and making it something that isn’t fun.” 

Terry says the museum attracted about 100,000 visitors in 2019.


Listen to the audio player to hear Motown Museum CEO Robin Terry talk about the origins of the museum, which first opened in 1985


Those attendance numbers will be reduced more than half this year as capacity shrinks. No longer are the sold-out crowds with more than 450 people per day through the museum. Tour groups that were once filled with 30 people will be reduced to 10, allowing for a more intimate, VIP tour through the museum.

Like many other cultural institutions reopening their doors in Detroit, masks will be required and social distancing will be in effect.

Decals around the museum remind patrons to socially distance using lyrics from an iconic Motown song.Ryan Patrick Hooper
Ryan Patrick Hooper

Decals around the museum remind patrons to socially distance using lyrics from an iconic Motown song.

Inside and out, they’ll lean on their legacy with floor decals that read, “stop in the name of love; stay six feet apart” — a play on the Supremes’ 1965 hit written by Detroit’s own Lamont Dozier.

Motown has always been a place where your spirits are uplifted and where you find inspiration,” said Terry. “We found ways to engage our Motown fans and not give up the stuff that works. We’re being very flexible but not compromising the quality of the experience.”  

The reduced crowds returning to the Motown Museum will see a new photo exhibit called “Capturing A Culture Change: Motown Through the Eyes of Jim Hendin.”

The former in-house photographer for the label, Hendin’s lens captured the iconic shot of Marvin Gaye’s album “What’s Going On?” cover in 1971. That image sets the tone for the photo installation.

A photo exhibit by Jim Hendin is one of the new attractions at the reopened Motown Museum in Detroit.Courtesy of the Motown Museum
Courtesy of the Motown Museum

A photo exhibit by Jim Hendin is one of the new attractions at the reopened Motown Museum in Detroit.

The exhibition travels through Motown’s response to what was happening culturally in the mid-1960s to early 1970s – a period that foreshadows the demand for civil, social and racial justice being fought for today. 

I don’t think there’s an album or song that could’ve been more prolific then, and as relevant for us today,” said Terry about Marvin Gaye’s 1971 masterpiece. “Motown has always been the sound of young America, so this photo journey really takes you through how Motown was responding, not only with the talent that it was adding to its roster, but to the music and the way these artists looked. It’s quite fascinating and we’re excited to share this with the community.”


Explore the legacy of Motown with WDET:

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Ryan Patrick Hooper, Host, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper is the host and producer of CultureShift. As a longtime arts and culture reporter.

hooper@wdet.org Follow @HooperRadio

LaToya Cross, Producer, CultureShift

LaToya Cross is a Producer with CultureShift, where she produces in-depth content that spotlights creatives and individuals using their platform to examine, cultivate, shape and shift culture.

Latoya.cross@wdet.org Follow @ToizStory

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