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Da Vinci's Automoton

Planes and robotic knights: A spring holiday road trip

Beatrice Smith

Have a budding artist, engineer or builder in the family?

These spring school holidays, why not give them a taste of what their inventions, paintings or sketches could one day become by bringing them face-to-face with one of history’s greatest creators—Leonardo da Vinci?

Temora

Temora

Just over two hours’ drive from Canberra, almost directly west, lies Temora. Aside from gorgeous churches and paddock-to-plate food, one of the biggest drawcards of this Riverina town is the Temora Aviation Museum, famous for its collection of still-working historical aircraft.

A MkVIII Spitfire belonging to TAM.

A MkVIII Spitfire belonging to TAM.

The Museum’s Showcase Days—where aircraft of yesteryear take to the skies—attract thousands to the region, but it won’t just be the machines in the air drawing people to Temora these school holidays, but also the ones on paper.

One of only a handful of locations around Australia, Temora Aviation Museum (TAM) will host the Da Vinci Machines Exhibition from Friday 1 September until 29 October 2017.

Showcasing more than 60 of da Vinci’s inventions—from sketches to recreations of his inventions to interactive elements—the exhibition’s Australian Tour Manager Maria Teresa Rizzo explains that this isn’t any ordinary exhibition. Each realisation of da Vinci’s designs was created by The Niccolai Group—an organisation that meticulously constructs da Vinci’s designs for exhibitions such as this, using only materials of the time, such as wood, cotton and metal.

The Aerial Screw

The Aerial Screw

“The Niccolai Group have been reconstructing da Vinci’s machines in Florence, Italy for over 50 years in collaboration with da Vinci scholars,” says MariaTeresa, describing da Vinci himself as a man “ahead of his time”.

“He worked as an artist, scientist and inventor during a time when important advances in technology were made—the Renaissance,” she explains. “His genius was fuelled by his insatiable curiosity and his soaring imagination.”

“We, of course, know him for his amazing paintings—The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, among them—but surprisingly, in his lifetime he was better known as an inventor.”

He might be the man responsible for the world’s most mysterious smile, but da Vinci’s inventions ranged from the world’s first military tank to an apparatus – later to be known by the acronym S.C.U.B.A – that allowed divers to breathe underwater. These were marvels of engineering for fifteenth-century Italy.

Da Vinci's Automoton

Da Vinci’s Automoton

Maria Teresa explains that the da Vinci Machines Exhibition revolves around some key themes—one of which is flight.

“Leonardo dreamed of flying,” explains MariaTeresa. “He observed and drew the wings of birds, bats and insects to try and understand how wings worked and to try and see the ways he could translate them into machines that would put humans in the air.”

Some of the machines that you’ll be able to see during the exhibition include the world’s first hang glider and the ‘Aerial Screw, which was da Vinci’s take on a helicopter—some 450 years before the first helicopter successfully took off!

Other themes include ‘war machines’ built for the Duke of Milan, who tasked da Vinci with keeping his city safe from attack, as well as nautical and hydraulic machines, including the world’s first scuba suit and a spring-powered cart. And for the purists, there will also be recreations of da Vinci’s most famous frescos and paintings.

Recreations of the Mona Lisa, unrestored and restored.

Recreations of the Mona Lisa, unrestored and restored.

As for Maria Teresa’s personal favourite from the collection?

“One of my favourite works…is a drumming robot,” she laughs. “For me that’s a really exciting highlight. We call them ‘Automatons’, which acknowledges the fact that they’re precursors to robots.

“It’s the torso of a human figure whose arms are articulated with rope and wheels, and by turning the handle you animate the robot, which plays the drums. [da Vinci] was so futuristic.”

But it was da Vinci’s passion for flight that really shines through in this exhibition. General Manager of the Temora Aviation Museum, Peter Harper, agrees that it’s a perfect fit for TAM, given that da Vinci’s designs paved the way for the enormous modern aircraft that the Museum is home to.

A Flight Showcase at TAM

A Flight Showcase at TAM

“If you look to [da Vinci], he was centuries ahead with his designs of flying machines, so there is quite a close tie to the Museum and his theories of flight.”

“The flying machines are [amazing],” he says. “The parachute he designed—we have to remember this was five centuries ago, long before the Wright Brothers took off on the first flight just over a century ago.”

It’s also worth noting that buying a ticket for the Da Vinci Machines Exhibition at TAM will also allow you entry into the entire museum, which will surely be a thrill for flight enthusiasts of any age.

“If you come to the Museum on any given day you’ll see ex-military aircraft that served Australia during times of conflict,” explains Peter, recommending the iconic Mk VIII Spitfire and Hudson Bomber as two of his favourites.

Crowd at a TAM Flight Day.

Crowd at a TAM Flight Day.

While it’s normal to see vintage aircraft preserved in museums (such as those in the Australian War Memorial’s Aircraft Hall), in TAM, all of the aircraft displayed are equipped to take to the skies—and they do, at the Museum’s Flying Days, which Peter stresses as the ideal time to visit.

So what are you waiting for? Temora is the spring road trip your mini da Vinci will surely thank you for.

the essentials

What: The Da Vinci Machines Exhibition
Where: Temora Aviation Museum, 1 Tom Moon Avenue, Temora (about a two-hour drive from Canberra)
When: 1 September until 29 October, on display from 10am-4pm each day
Tickets: $10-20 which includes entry to the entire Museum
Web: Purchase tickets online or at the door. Find more information here.

This is a sponsored editorial. For more information on sponsored editorials, click here

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies. More about the Author

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