Mehanicals Lion Tamer

Click, clack, whiz, whirr, crank! The magical world of automata has captured the human imagination since ancient times. But what exactly are they?

Derived from the Greek word meaning “self-acting,” automata are whimsical machines brought to life by intricate arrangements of handmade cams, cranks and other simple mechanisms. Intersecting the worlds of science, mechanics and art, automata has a rich history—civilizations and cultures throughout time have imitated life (often humorously) through these charming mechanical contraptions.

The Mechanicals is an exhibition of two parts. Twelve witty, beautifully hand-crafted automata are displayed alongside ten hands-on exhibits that reveal the basic mechanisms involved in making the automata work. Pull a lever, turn a crank and watch the mechanicals come to life while highlighting the basic principles behind the drives, pulleys, ratchets and levers that underpin our lives in so many ways.

This exhibition will also feature work from Arthur Ganson, an artist who uses simple, plain materials to build witty mechanical art that examines the quiet drama of physical motion. “Thinking Chair” is a self-portrait of a meditative experience in nature, while the lighthearted “Machine with Artichoke Petal #2” pokes fun at his failed attempt to cook an uncovered artichoke in the microwave. The exhibition also features a generous loan of fifty automata from the collection of Dr. Andrew and Debbie Hirschl.

The Mechanicals is a collaborative project with Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, famous for its collection of hand-made automata once displayed in London’s Convent Garden.

Museum Map

West Wing - Level 4