When the Da Vinci Machines Exhibition first came to my hometown, I had never heard of it. I was walking around downtown one day with a friend when we stumbled across it. It was nighttime, so the exhibit had already closed, and there was very little information on the windows and doors to tell us what it was. We just saw some wooden models of strange-looking machines and a few Da Vinci prints scattered around. As we peered inside, we could just barely make out a giant model of… something, sitting in the middle of the floor.
A Random Discount
We were intrigued, but I essentially forgot all about the exhibition the next day. Then, a few weeks later, one of my endless daily coupon subscriptions paid off, for once. They were offering two-for-one tickets to see the Da Vinci Machines Exhibition, which brought the total price down from questionable to definitely affordable, so I decided to go for it. My friend and I headed back downtown that weekend, and we learned what the exhibit was all about.
On Loan from Florence
Apparently, the Da Vinci Machines Exhibit had been on loan from Florence’s Museum of Leonardo da Vinci. Somehow, I missed that museum during my last trip to Florence, so maybe this was a bit of a second chance. We entered the exhibit, learned that we had to wait about 45 minutes for the next guided tour, and opted to walk around the mall while we waited. Finally, we lined up for the tour.
The Guided Tour
The bubbly, awkward, art school graduate of a tour guide took us through her rehearsed tour, explaining most (but not all) of the wooden models of Da Vinci’s machines. The whole exhibit was about the size of my local DMV, which is to say, not that big. The wooden machines, some of which were interactive, stood on pedestals with accompanying informational plaques. Our tour guide explained what the machines had been designed for, whether they had actually been built, and gave us demonstrations of a few of them. The whole tour lasted about 45 minutes.
A Small Letdown
To be honest, I was a little disappointed. I thought the machines could have been better constructed… they had a definite "traveling" quality to them, and didn’t seem made to last. And for an exhibition that spent months upon months at this location, they did very little to make the space inviting. There appeared to be little rhyme or reason to the organization of the machines, and the exhibits were arranged in such a way as to give the museum a feeling of having a low budget.
Not All Bad
There were one or two things I did like about the Da Vinci Machines Exhibition, so I don’t think it was a waste of time or money. For example, they had a nearly life-sized image of a fresco of Da Vinci’s that is currently buried underneath another painting. The tour guide explained that fitting small cameras in between the two fresco layers was the only way to reconstruct the work. It had a great story, as well, which I won’t spoil for those of you who are planning to visit the exhibit. There were also two videos on display, both of which were informative and entertaining. Of course, the exhibit’s producers didn’t bother to locate comfortable chairs or to play the videos in quiet areas, so we had to suffer through hard wooden benches and loud people passing by us. All in all, though, it was an interesting experience. If you can view the exhibit for half price, like I did, I would say it’s well worth it!