CRM Journal

Media Review

MotorCities: Experience Everything Automotive
[updated address:]

MotorCities-Automobile National Heritage Area; accessed on June 20, 2004.


Since 1984, Congress has designated 24 national heritage areas to conserve, interpret, and promote regional historic resources. Although affiliated with the National Park Service, national heritage areas are consciously nonfederal. Most land and resources remain in private hands; local management entities direct and operate the heritage area; and tours, museums, and festivals are staffed primarily through voluntary efforts.

The MotorCities-Automobile National Heritage Area was authorized by Congress on November 6, 1998, to preserve, interpret, and promote Michigan's rich automotive and labor story 1 and the dramatic cultural impact of the automobile on American life. The heritage area comprises 8,139 square miles in southeastern Michigan, nearly 6 million people, 10 Congressional districts, and nearly 700 local government units. The heritage area's motto is "We Put the World on Wheels," and its new website slogan is "Experience Everything Automotive."

The homepage introduces the visitor to the heritage area and its resources with an easily navigated array of images and four links: Your Road Trip, Event Calendar, Members Area, and The Body Shop. The site takes advantage of web technology, displaying a rotating set of historic photographs each time the page loads. The organization and ease of navigation understate the website's rich and comprehensive content.

The website is tightly focused on the heritage area's cultural resources and helps the visitor to navigate a very large, unwieldy geographic area. Your Road Trip establishes a turn-of-the-century context with a series of historical and automobile-specific facts. From there, the visitor can select any of four tours packaged by the American Travel Center through a partnership with MotorCities. The prepackaged tours, including hotels and visits to a variety of automobile-related sites, make it easy for heritage area visitors to take in as many attractions as possible with a minimum of fuss and planning. Featured destinations include the baronial mansions of Ford and Fischer, the Detroit Museum of Art, and the Henry Ford Museum.

This section also links visitors to the area's significant automobile-related historical websites that provide housing, admission costs, contact information, and a brief description of what the visitor can expect to find. A list of motor cities is also available as one links to independent tour companies. This single-minded attention to visitor needs in the heritage area makes the website invaluable in fulfilling one of the mandates of heritage areas: economic revitalization through heritage tourism.

The Body Shop is the preservation section of the site. Not content merely to state the case for preservation, it asks blatantly, "What can we do for you?" and follows with examples of revitalization projects throughout the United States and Europe, information on conferences, and how to take advantage of tax incentives. Two pages discuss extensive documentation efforts: one in partnership with the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey, and an ambitious GIS documentation of over 1,200 automobile heritage sites throughout southeastern Michigan. There is also a National Trust for Historic Preservation-like listing of the 11 most-endangered automobile heritage sites.

This website shows the value of a heritage area's investment in a website. As experienceeverything- amply demonstrates, websites that connect visitors with resources—tours, historic sites, documentation, and revitalization opportunities—are essential tools for presenting, exploring, and managing heritage areas.

Richard O'Connor
National Park Service



1. "MotorCities National Heritage Area," at; maintained by MotorCities National Heritage Area; accessed September 22, 2004. [updated address:]