University of Michigan-Flint

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UM-Flint’s Wyatt Exploration Program Looks at “The Making and Unmaking of AutoWorld”

  • February 14th, 2014 By: UM-Flint News
Sign announces plan to transform Flint's IMA Auditorium location into "AutoWorld"

The Skinny

As part of the 2013-14 Wyatt Lecture Series, former Flint resident and Appalachian State University assistant professor of history Andrea Burns, Ph.D. will present “A Unique Place in All the World: The Making and Unmaking of AutoWorld.”

In 1984, the doors of AutoWorld opened to great fanfare and celebration in downtown Flint. Less than a decade later, this uncertain combination of museum and theme park closed its doors for good.

Artist rendering of AutoWorld along Flint River

Artist rendering of AutoWorld along Flint River

As part of the 2013-14 Wyatt Lecture Series, former Flint resident and current Appalachian State University assistant professor of history Andrea Burns, Ph.D. will present “A Unique Place in All the World: The Making and Unmaking of AutoWorld.”

The presentation is scheduled for Friday, February 21, at 4:00 p.m. in the Happenings Room of UM-Flint’s Harding Mott University Center.

Burns will look at how AutoWorld’s demolition in 1997 dealt a crushing blow to those with a deep investment (both financial and emotional) in the institution’s promise to revitalize Flint’s postindustrial economy, and transform the city’s identity into a cultural destination that attracted tourists and residents alike. According to Burn’s research, understanding the history, hopes, and desires that surrounded AutoWorld, from its initial conception by C.S. Harding Mott in 1969 to its destruction in 1997, reveals the complicated intersections of heritage tourism, the postindustrial economy, and the city’s historical identity.

Six Flags Autoworld logo

Six Flags AutoWorld logo

Burns received her B.A. in History from Michigan State University, and her Ph.D. in History from the University of Minnesota. She lived in Flint for over twenty years with her family, and graduated from Powers Catholic High School.

If you are not familiar with AutoWorld, here is video from WJRT of its opening day on July, 4 1984.

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