HomeCar CultureMoMA takes you back in time through its website

MoMA takes you back in time through its website

Our weekly roundup of car museum news and notes


It was a seminal event in the history of the automobile as being recognized beyond its role as a transportation device. From August 28 to November 11, 1951, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City staged an exhibition titled “8 Automobiles.” 

The cars were showcased in the museum’s garden and on an elevated, 8-foot-wide roadway in its first-floor galleries in what was considered the first exhibition anywhere on the planet in which an art museum featured automobiles for the esthetics of their design.

“An automobile is a familiar 20th-century artifact, and is no less worthy of being judged for its visual appeal than a building or a chair,” Philip Johnson, director of the MoMA’s department of architecture and design, wrote in the exhibition catalog.  

“Automobiles are hollow, rolling sculpture, and the refinements of their design are fascinating. We have selected cars whose details and basic designs suggest that automobiles, besides being America’s most useful Useful Objects, could be a source of visual experience more enjoyable than they now are.”

The vehicles selected for the showcase were a 1949 Cisitalia, 1939 Figoni et Falachi-bodied Talbot, 1937 coffin-nosed Cord, 1930 Mercedes-Benz Model SS, 1939 Bentley, 1941 Lincoln Continental, 1948 MG TC, and 1951 Willys-Overland Jeep. 

Although you cannot go back in time to experience “8 Automobiles,” the MoMA has just expanded its website to share each of its exhibitions since it opened in 1929. Among the museum’s 5,032 exhibitions have been 105 featuring automobiles, from the original 8 in 1951 to 10 in 1953 and those included in “The Value of Good Design” just last year.

To explore the automotive and other exhibitions, visit the MoMA exhibition history website.

AACA gets gigantic bus donation

This 1930 Pickwick Nite Coach model is John Dockendorf’s favorite. It is a model of a proposed bus that would provide Pullman-style sleeper service for travelers | AACA Museum photo

It’s not that the buses themselves were gigantic. After all, the donation to the AACA Museum comprised bus models. But there were 5,000 of them that John Dockendorf just donated to the now merged AACA Museum and the Museum of Bus Transportation in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Back in 1976, Dockendorf was hired as chief of the urban transit division of PennDot’s Bureau of Public Transportation and thought it would be nice to decorate his new office with bus models. 

His collection grew and he became recognized as an expert on model buses. He also was a founding member of the Museum of Bus Transportation and also has become a member of the AACA Museum board of directors.

Guthrie, Earnhardt Sr. elected to Indy Hall

Janet Guthrie, the first woman to race in the Indianapolis 500, and 1995 Brickyard 400 winner Dale Earnhardt Sr. have been elected to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s Hall of Fame. Induction ceremonies are scheduled for May 21.

‘Legends of Speed’ exhibit extended

The Phoenix Art Museum has announced the extension of its “Legends of Speed” exhibition of historic racing cars through March 22. 

Special events this weekend

Tacoma, Washington, museums including LeMay – America’s Car Museum, plan a special K-12 educator workshop exploring science, technology, engineering, art and math on February 29. 

The Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard, California, stages its first “Muscles & Mojo” monthly first-Sunday car show from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. on March 1.

Mark your calendar

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum opens its spring speaker series on March 4 with racers Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter.

“Drive the Blues Away” with a “Viva Las Vegas” night March 13 from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. at the LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington. 

The “Foundations of Photography 2020” series of classes begins March 14 at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, where Andrew Taylor will lead the 6-part educational series on photographing the automobile. Also scheduled for March 14 (beginning at 11 a.m.) is a Demo Day featuring celebrity cars formerly owned by Greta Garbo, Claudette Colbert, William Holden and Phil Spector.

The Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, California, will offer special showings of the 1927 movie, Her Wild Oat, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on March 14. Thought to have been lost, a copy of the museum was discovered in the Czech National Film Archive in Prague.  The movie will be shown on a hand-cranked projector accompanied by live organ music on the museum’s 5,000-pipe Mighty Wurlitzer one-man theater organ. 

The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, offers a “Start Your Engines!” event on March 21.

The Mustang Owner’s Museum near Charlotte, North Carolina, will host a Ford Spring Garage Sale on March 21.

The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, offers “Packard – Ask The Man Who Owns One” with Packard historian Chuck Lachman as part of its winter lecture series at 3 p.m. on March 22.

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia hosts the third Philadelphia Area Car Modelers show from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on March 28.

The Saratoga Automobile Museum in update New York hosts Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets Seminar from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on March 29. 

The Studebaker Family Extravaganza scheduled for April 4 at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, will include a parade led by a Tucker, a Studebaker flea market and other activities. The museum notes that the Tucker is Chassis 1026, the only Tucker with an automatic transmission and “has never been seen or driven in a public setting like this.” The car also will take part in the Historic Vehicle Association’s International Drive Conference scheduled for April 23-25 in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The Miles Through Time Museum in Clarkesville, Georgia, will stage a grand re-0pening and cruise-in on April 4. 

The Mustang Owner’s Museum near Charlotte, North Carolina, is making plans for National Mustang Day with several days of activities, including a test and tune on April 16, at Mooresville Dragway; a driver’s choice cruise to various NASCAR race shops or to a winery, distillery and brewery before the Mustang Hall of Fame induction on April 17; a “day at the museum” program on April 18; and a cruise to Mustang specialist Innovative Performance Technologies on April 19. Just confirmed will be an appearance by the 1963 Mustang II concept vehicle.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, will host a special Mustang Day program on April 17 with a cruise-in car show beginning at 9 a.m., with behind-the-scenes tours and a special presentation at 1 p.m. by Shelby engineer Chuck Cantwell.

The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Daytona, Beach, Florida, hosts “An Evening with Dave Friedman” from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 17. Friedman is well known for his motorsport photography, especially for his time with Shelby American.

The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, plans its first cars and coffee cruise-in of the season from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. on April 18.

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, re-opens its Performance Gallery on April 22. The gallery closed on November 20 for “a much-needed refresh.” 

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia hosts the fourth annual Philadelphia Concours d’Elegance on April 24-25.

The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, opens two new exhibits on May 7 — “a hobby gone wild” and “Wingless Wonders: Propeller Vehicles That Never Took Off.”

The Murphy Auto Museum in Oxnard, California, hosts its 8th annual vintage trailer show from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on June 20. New this year will be seminars and restoration tips from experts.

Does your local car museum have special events or exhibitions planned? Let us know. Email [email protected]

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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