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‘Ernestine Ruben at Willow Run: Mobilizing Memory’ Explores Family History, Industrial Identity

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) presents Ernestine Ruben at Willow Run: Mobilizing Memory, an exhibition that will display the photographs of Ernestine Ruben (BSDEs ’53) from wartime industrial site Willow Run before its demolition.

Ernestine RubenAfter a 2013 visit to the once-famed Willow Run industrial complex in Washtenaw County, Michigan, Ruben (right) photographed the now-dormant mechanical ruins that were designed and built during World War II by her grandfather, renowned Detroit architect Albert Kahn.

“The long history of Willow Run as a model of American industrial production is rooted deeply in the history of this region and in the history of the United States,” says Jennifer Friess, Assistant Curator of Photography. “Ernestine Ruben at Willow Run: Mobilizing Memory provides viewers a unique opportunity to explore a part of Michigan’s industrial history that has now been demolished. Ruben’s photographs situate viewers at the heart of the interior space of Willow Run and frame unflinching views of the remnants of that productive history. ”

The exhibition presents Ruben’s photographs of Willow Run in UMMA’s Photography Gallery and an original film—co-created by Ruben and video artist Seth Bernstein and featuring an original score by award-winning composer Stephen Hartke—in the Museum’s Forum.

“Ruben’s photographs invite us to revisit the many histories of the Willow Run site and ask visitors to participate in those stories,” Friess says.

Ruben will take part in several conversations on campus as a part of the University of Michigan’s Bicentennial:

In Conversation: Mobilizing Memory at Willow Run [Note: Program is full.]
Sunday, March 12, 3 p.m.

Ernestine Ruben and Assistant Curator of Photography, Jennifer Friess, will lead a discussion of the exhibition and a screening of Ruben’s new short film, Willow Run. 

Willow Run: Gender, Race, and Factory Work During and After World War II
Wednesday March 15, 4:15-6:30 p.m.

Photographer Ernestine Ruben and UMMA Assistant Curator of Photography Jennifer Friess, will discuss Ruben's return to Willow Run followed by a screening of Willow Run, a short, 12-minute film by Ruben in collaboration with video artist Seth Bernstein, that builds upon the photographs and interprets them. The music for the film was written by composer Stephen Hartke. Berstein and Hartke will also join the discussion.

This program is part of a larger U-M History Department's Symposium, "1943: Consequences of Mobilization" which uncovers the impact of World War II on the home front and investigates the unprecedented social change that characterized wartime America.

Upcoming Exhibition Programs

In Conversation: In Conversation: Mobilizing Memory and History at Willow Run
Sunday, Aug. 13, 3-4 p.m.