Out & About: Da Vinci’s machines come to the Upper Valley

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/28/2022 10:03:33 PM
Modified: 5/28/2022 10:03:29 PM

Replicas of Leonardo da Vinci’s famed inventions will be on display at the Montshire Museum of Science for the summer.

The exhibit, titled “Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion” opens Saturday and runs through Sept. 5.

Admission is $16 for children ages 2 to 17, $19 for adults and free for children younger than 2. Masks are required for all patrons while indoors.

“Da Vinci is a really good fit for our museum through our emphasis on engineering,” Sherlock Terry, director of exhibits and facilities at the Montshire, said during a tour of the exhibit last week before it officially opened.

The exhibit features two dozen machines and mechanisms, many of which are interactive, “which is a real plus for us,” Terry said. He is also excited about the focus on the history of science and how it has evolved over the centuries.

Plans have been in the works to bring the traveling exhibit to the museum since 2011. The machines arrived intact in giant crates that staff unpacked and set up. Along with the machines, there are enlarged pages from da Vinci’s many journals, allowing people to take a closer look at his creative process.

“It was wild to look at his notebooks,” said Katie Kalata Rusch, exhibit developer and project coordinator at the Montshire. It shows how “problem solving can be elegant.”

The machines were created using materials that would have been available during da Vinci’s time, including wood, metal, rope, leather and cloth. They center around da Vinci’s four fascinations: earth, water, air and fire. There’s a printing press, a gear wheel, a hydraulic water saw, a webbed glove (meant to help people swim faster), an ornithopter (an early attempt at a flying machine) and a flywheel, among others.

“Da Vinci was very interested in flight, and so many of his drawings are using air to travel,” Kalata Rusch said.

The smaller concepts, which show pulleys and other simple machines, can be seen after they were put into to practice in the larger pieces.

“You’re able to see small individual part and then you get to see how they work together to make a machine,” Kalata Rusch said.

In the Montshire’s Discovery Lab, children will have a chance to create their own inventions, including finding a way for Luna the dog to cross a lake. There will be materials for children to building anything from a catapult to a bridge. There are also options for younger children, including using spirograph stencils to make art.

“Part of the idea was getting something was really great for younger visitors,” Kalata Rusch said.

“We like the idea of engineering for art as well,” Terry added.

Kalata Rusch and Terry hope the exhibit will encourage children to take an interest in engineering. Maybe they’ll decide to take apart a toaster or telephone at home to see how it works — with parental permission, of course.

“These are all the basis of the tools and technology that make our lives easier now,” Kalata Rusch said.

Editor’s note: For more information, visit montshire.org.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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