University of South Carolina

This IS your father's Oldsmobile: A poster from a bygone era.
This IS your father's Oldsmobile: A poster from a bygone era.

Continued: Factory tours

While World of Coke in Atlanta offers visitors a museum and retail experience, Coca Cola still offers factory tours through its network of local bottling plants, where people can learn about the product and bottling process.

To a purist like Marsh, corporate attractions aren’t the same as factory tours, which she defines as a site of production that is opened regularly to the public.

“I don’t like recreated tours. The companies are too intent on selling the product rather than educating the visitor on the engineering process of how it’s made,” Marsh said. “Auto-industry tours are very good at showing the automation and engineering that goes into making a car. South Carolina may have a good tour experience on the horizon with Boeing in Charleston.”

It’s that engineering process that has captivated Marsh since she was a child, when her family would stray from the less-traveled road to visit plants and industrial sites.

“If you can, think back to long car trips before portable DVD players,” Marsh said. “Imagine three kids in the back seat of a station wagon stuck in traffic on the Pennslyvania Turnpike. No wonder my dad would pull over and make us all get out and explore the headquarters for the tunnel through the Allegheny Mountains.”

Those detours led her on an educational path that earned her bachelor’s degrees in engineering and history from Swarthmore College and a doctorate in science, medicine and technology from Johns Hopkins University.

“Factory tours are still a family affair,” Marsh said. “My father and I drove across the country in 2008 to drive the oil pipeline in Alaska. We stopped at the oil-pumping stations on the way to the oil fields in upper Alaska. We learned a lot and gained a great appreciation for how and where we get gasoline that our society currently depends on.”

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