A Backwards Glance at a Forward-Thinking Fellow

May 15, 2009

Baylor's Mayborn Museum Complex Announces Leonardo da Vinci Machines in Motion, its Summer 2009 Traveling Exhibit

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director, Media Communications
(254) 710-3321
Follow us on Twitter: @BaylorUMediaCom

WACO, Texas (May 15, 2009) - Painting the mysterious smile on the Mona Lisa guaranteed Leonardo da Vinci a place in history.

But less well known is the fact that, five centuries ago, he was the guy who believed it was not pie in the sky that humans could fly.

Leonardo da Vinci Machines in Motion - a 5,000-square-foot, interactive exhibition opening May 23 at Baylor University's Mayborn Museum Complex - takes a unique backwards glance at a forward-thinking fellow.

The exhibition features 40 operational machines made from painstaking studies of designs by scientist-engineer-inventor-sculptor Leonardo. The machines were constructed by a modern team of scientists and artisans who used the craftsmanship and materials that Leonardo would have used in his time, exhibit officials said.

The exhibition, created by Worldwide Museum Activities and based in Florence, Italy, will make its stop in Waco through Aug. 16.

"I look at this as the untold story of Leonardo da Vinci," said Jennifer Wallace, project manager with Evergreen Exhibitions of San Antonio, exhibit producer.

"Most people are familiar with his paintings, but this illuminates all the codices he drew trying these inventions and brings the machines to life," she said. "That really hasn't been presented to the public much."

Visitors will be welcomed by a to-scale replica of a robot designed by Leonardo. It will make a courtly bow and open its chest to reveal its inner workings.

Once inside the exhibit, visitors will have the chance for such adventures as stepping inside an armored tank that can hold up to eight people.

They can study a hydraulic saw at work and examine the ball bearings that were the forerunners of those used in modern automobiles.

The exhibit also features a canvas-and-wood parachute and an "ornithopter" - birdlike wings mounted atop a bicycle - made using designs by Leonardo, Wallace said.

"It's unclear whether he ever actually built and tested all these things," she said.

A precursor of the machine gun isn't loaded with ammunition, but visitors can take aim and engage in some imaginary warfare.

The exhibition is enhanced with the inclusion of "Apprentices" - four video guides featuring child actors dressed in Renaissance clothing. They explain Leonardo's inspirations of earth, air, fire and water in creating his machines.

In addition, an interactive component called "Leonardo's Workshop" allows visitors to try their skills at building small versions of bridges, arches, flying machines and catapults designed by Leonardo.

"We are very pleased to have the opportunity to bring this world-class exhibition to our community," said Dr. Ellie Caston, director of the Mayborn Museum Complex. "The opening day of this exhibition is the start of a very exciting summer filled with activities such as demonstrations, interactive activities and plenty of fun- filled days for the entire family to enjoy."

The videos and Leonardo's Workshop were created by the Witte Museum in San Antonio and are being brought to Waco through a generous grant from the Cooper Foundation.

Texts explaining the exhibits are displayed in English and Spanish.

Media sponsors for the exhibition and related summer activities are Grande Communications and the Waco Tribune-Herald.

The 143,000-square-foot Museum also permanently houses:

• A replica of the Waco excavation site of skeletons of Columbian mammoths

• Natural history dioramas of Central Texas

• Artifacts and biological collections in the eclectic John K. Strecker Museum

• A historic Texas village of two homes, a church, a school and a store.

• Seventeen interactive "discovery rooms" for youthful visitors. They will have the opportunity to play a "walk-on" piano, walk through a model of the human heart, communicate in hieroglyphics and report the TV news and weather.

Admission, which includes all of the Museum and the Machines in Motion exhibition, is $10 for adults, $9 for senior citizens and $5 for children. The exhibition is free to all Museum members and Baylor students.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. The museum is located on the Baylor campus at 1200 S. University Parks Dr. in Waco.

For more information about the exhibit, contact the Mayborn Museum Complex at (254) 710-1110 or visit MaybornMuseum.com.

Looking for more news from Baylor University?