Monday, March 16, 2009

You Can't Touch da Vinci

maria mortati I had a frustrating museum experience last week. I was visiting the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and caught one of the da Vinci exhibits that is making its way around the globe. It was filled with burnt umber walls, yellow ochre drawings and large, robust wooden models of da Vinci's ideas. They looked like they were built to handle some... handling. Yet I was "greeted" with Don't Touch stickers plastered over all but a half-dozen exhibits in the back, and no photography was allowed. Yes, I know that it's not feasible to allow the public to touch all these kinetic exhibits- for their safety as well as for budgetary issues. However, is it essential that you can't take a picture, or write a note? I found it extremely frustrating to see a room full of kinetic objects about flight, gravity, motion, energy... just sitting there. If you can't touch it, at least animate it... give it some life. Especially in the context of a hands-on science museum. The thing I did like was that outside the exhibit hall they showed da Vinci-esque projects from local school kids. That was pretty cool-- I wanted to see some more of those.


mg said...

I saw the exhibit as well and share your frustration. I think it is a great undertaking to give three dimensional form to Leonardo's sketches. I can understand why the curators would not want to subject these models to the ravages of the general public. But at a minimum I would have liked to see a short video clip of some of the pieces in action. Clearly, some of these pieces could have proven Leonardo's concepts and some could never have worked (e.g. the flying machines) - such a mix of successes and failures is the way of all great inventors. On the other hand, if claims of success or failure were made, I suppose there would be an inevitable debate about how well the 3D model reflected Leonardo's true intent.

Maria Mortati said...

Thanks for sharing, MG. I think a video clip or animation would have been really cool. That's a great idea and I would imagine a lot more feasible than making the physical exhibits more accessible.

Debate is good- and if an exhibit spurs that, I think it's wonderful. That could have been a fun way to allow people to contribute to the exhibit.