Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 7, 2019

PREVIEW: Berkshire Museum, Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion

Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA
February 9 – May 19, 2019

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s super man! No, not Superman, but one man who, through the centuries, is lauded with the title “genius” -- Leonardo da Vinci. The same man who created the Mona Lisa is credited as the inventor of more than 40 machines; therefore, the title for Berkshire Museum’s exhibit: Machines in Motion.

Full-size working models of Leonardo da Vinci’s innovative designs, from flying machines to an early robot, fill several large galleries on the first and second floors of the Museum.  Each mechanism is accompanied by da Vinci’s drawings and a descriptive narrative of his life.

Five hundred years removed, his drawings, designs, and machines continue to invoke curiosity and wonder. Few creative bodies of work can speak to and represent the mastermind of one human being.
The experience is that of stepping back in time to view the technological beginnings of today’s world. So many museums are bedecked with signs, “Do Not Touch.” This exhibit, however, promotes the opposite. Touch, crank, turn, assemble, step into these pieces of art. On one day’s visit, more adults were seen TOUCHING, etc. the designs than the youth.

The 40 machines were meticulously crafted by scientists and skilled artisans in collaboration with the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence, Italy, and inspired by designs from the Renaissance thinker’s notebooks. The exhibition includes several largescale models including a life-sized armored tank and a glider. The models are fabricated with careful attention to the types of materials that would have been used in da Vinci’s era and are described in his manuscripts. Faithfully adhering to artist’s instructions and utilizing the tools of his time, they are hand-crafted with wood, rope, and glue. Graphic displays and videos explain the life and legacy of the inventor and provide context for his inventiveness and designs.

Machines in the exhibition are grouped into four sections — fire, water, earth, and air — each which held a strong fascination for da Vinci. Under fire there is a cannon, a machine gun, and a moving wooden battle tank. The water segment features machines that use water pressure to enable a man to literally walk on water. The earth category presents a crane, the printing press, and even a robot. Fascinated by flight, drawings related to air invite visitors to discover several types of flying machines, from a device with mechanical wings to a parachute, and even a flying bicycle.

An important recommendation is to allow approximately two hours to take in the da Vinci Exhibit. Berkshire Museum has much more to see and experience; allot an additional hour or two especially with kids in tow. For more information, visit www.berkshiremuseum.org or call 413-443-7171