Da Vinci – Inventions Hands-On Exhibit at Kean U, New Jersey through April 12

Model of Da Vinci’s four-person tank at the Da Vinci-Inventions exhibit at Kean University, New Jersey © Laurie Millman/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

By Laurie Millman and Martin D. Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

What do plans for a four-person tank, SCUBA gear and ball bearings have in common? They were all designed by Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th century – 400 years before many of his plans and concepts were mass produced.

“Da Vinci — Inventions” is a rare, hands-on glimpse into the magnificent mind of our favorite Renaissance man. Da Vinci’s plans, sketches, drawings, and over 60 physical models of his designs and those inspired by his students are on display in the light-filled, ground floor of the 6000-square foot building that is home to Kean University’s History Department and Special Collections Research Library.

One section of the exhibit allows visitors to play with models that are comprised of cranks, gears, pulleys, and wooden ball bearings. When asked what one visitor thought of the exhibit, John from Bayonne, NJ commented that, “Instead of just seeing Da Vinci’s designs on pieces of paper, you get to see them built, even play with some of them.”

Marty gets to play with the hands-on Da Vinci models at the Da Vinci-Inventions exhibit at Kean University, New Jersey © Laurie Millman/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

In a time when intellectual property could not be protected, Leonardo wrote his notes backwards and upside down, while often leaving out a small, yet important step that would prevent others from properly building his designs without him participating. Samples of his difficult-to-read manuscripts are displayed in the exhibit.

A captivating video on a continuous loop explores Da Vinci’s complicated life which contributed to his creativity, eccentricities, and distrust in others. Another video in the exhibit covers the process scientists recently used to virtually strip away layers of varnish and paint from some of Da Vinci’s paintings, such as The Last Supper mural, to reveal the original colors and missing objects.

The exhibition was created by Grande Exhibitions and has appeared around the world, including in Italy, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Philippines.

To re-create Da Vinci’s inventions, engineers had to decipher Da Vinci’s coded manuscripts © Laurie Millman/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

All of the inventions brought to life for the exhibit were crafted by Italian artisans, many using techniques and materials from the Renaissance period. Scouring more than 6,000 pages from da Vinci’s personal codices (notebooks), the artisans deciphered hidden clues, intentional mistakes and mirror-image writing that he employed to keep his works top secret.

“The purpose of this new facility at Kean University is to be a support framework that connects and engages the community with transformative culture,” Lynette Zimmerman, executive director of the Liberty Hall Academic Center, said. “Da Vinci – Inventions embodies that mission. It will inspire students and the public alike to promote equality and social mobility through education.”

The “Da Vinci — Inventions” exhibit is open 10am to 5:30pm, Sunday-Thursday, and 10am to 9pm Friday and Saturday. Allow for 1 – 1.5 hours for a self-guided tour from your smart phone, to play with some of the models, and to watch the videos. A tour guide may also be requested.

Models of Da Vinci’s designs at the Da Vinci-Inventions exhibit at Kean University, New Jersey © Laurie Millman/TravelFeaturesSyndicate

General admission is $16.74/person over 12 years old; $6.24/children 12 and under. A discount of 20% is also available for groups of more than 10 members. Purchase tickets online kean.edu/davinci to reserve tickets in advance or by calling 908-737-5301. Online tickets are time stamped for 10am on a day you select, but you may visit anytime during exhibit hours on that day.

All school groups from grades K-12 are free, as well as Kean University Students.

The exhibit is ADA accessible, as the displays, gift shop, and bathrooms are all on the ground floor. Drinks may be brought into the building. Parking is available on site and the building is handicap accessible.

Liberty Hall Academic Center, on the property of New Jersey’s first governor, William Livingston, is also available for private events, such as weddings and meetings, once the exhibit is gone; contact 908-737-5301 for further inquiries. The grounds around the building, which boasts a garden and a pond with a fountain, are open to the public free of charge, beginning late April.

The exhibition runs through April 12, 2020 at the Liberty Hall Academic Center, Kean University, 1003 Morris Avenue, Union, New Jersey 07083.
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