Leonardo Museum opens up to virtual reality to showcase Leonardo's machines

The Leonardo Museum in Vinci gets a makeover and opens new rooms dedicated to Leonardo's mechanics, with virtual reality tours.

The Leonardo Museum in Vinci is renovating its exhibition spaces in the Uzielli building thanks to virtual reality and multimedia technologies, in order to offer new ways to learn about the figure of Leonardo the inventor and engineer and to appeal to all segments of the public, bringing it ever closer to young people.

The tour route has also been enriched with a new section presenting some models from the museum’s historic collection made in 1952 by IBM Italy.

“With this inauguration we give continuity and substance to an idea we have been pursuing for years,” says Vinci Mayor Giuseppe Torchia, “transforming our museum exhibition from the traditional static form to a more dynamic one, all thanks to the use of new technologies. To interact and better understand the author’s thinking. We want to implement more and more of our exhibition with new tools. This is not an easy thing to do, because in order to do this it is necessary to hold together two elements: the scientific rigor with which we propose the cultural offer and the economic sustainability of the implementation interventions. It is a gradual process that will change the face of our museum itinerary over the years. This is also thanks to the collaboration with the Sant’Anna Institute, with which we want to continue working together, to continue on this path.”

“Today the Museo Leonardiano becomes an increasingly modern and cutting-edge civic museum,” says Vinci’s deputy mayor with responsibility for Culture and Technological Innovation, Sara Iallorenzi. “Our goal is to propose ourselves and orient ourselves, creating interest, toward a new, younger audience and families, thus matching the visitor who is already in itself passionate and therefore already frequents museums, with the one who instead is yet to be intercepted, both in terms of age and interest. We must therefore innovate, creating curiosity, but without losing our characteristics. This mainly means understanding what culture can convey again and again with digital systems, taking into account the many transformations that there have been and that the pandemic has greatly accelerated. The innovation of this part of the Leonardian Museum should be considered a starting point, because the intention of our Administration is to present our cultural offerings with the new communicative forms that technology provides us. Therefore, our investment creates a perfect combination of culture and technology, where the latter allows culture to present itself in new forms, developing new tools to stimulate the interest and curiosity of visitors.”

The museum conducted this philological reconstruction work on Leonardo’s mechanics in collaboration with the Artes Mechanicae research group in Florence, dedicated to the study of the history of science and technology. The realization of the multimedia applications was made possible thanks to the contribution of theInstitute of Mechanical Intelligence of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, with which the museum branch has long had a relationship of exchange and comparison on the subject of multimedia applied to cultural communication. Fundamental to the realization of the new displays were the contributions provided by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze through the “Cultural Laboratories” call under the Art bonus. The intervention also benefited from a grant from the Tuscany Region for the Tuscan Network of Science Museums.

“The rearrangement intervention is cause for particular satisfaction,” concludes Museo Leonardiano director Roberta Barsanti, “because, in addition to enriching the museum itinerary with a new exhibition section, it offers visitors new ways to learn about the figure of Leonardo the technologist. The application of digital technology to the collection, with particularly evocative and engaging proposals, has gone hand in hand with the philological study of Leonardo’s mechanics.”

The new exhibition route kicks off, in the entrance hall of Palazzina Uzielli, with the immersive video The Mechanics of Leonardo, which introduces the collection’s underlying theme. The digital processing engages the visitor in a sequence of Leonardo’s drawings presented according to the themes addressed by the museum, to restore Leonardo’s continuous research on motion and the causes that generate it.

The section devoted to clocks, refitted and integrated with a unique model of an anchor escapement for a clock, hosts a full-wall video projection that illustrates in images Leonardo’s research on the automation of clocks and astronomers, which he relates to the mechanisms of textile machines, also on display. These new digital installations add a sound element to the visual element, made by translating the individual graphic elements represented into sounds, with the aim of suggesting the life of each individual mechanical element or of an entire Leonardo project.

In the new Anatomy of Machines section, it is possible to enjoy animmersive virtual reality experience that allows visitors to interact with some of the machinic elements studied by Leonardo. Here, in the room adjacent to the Leonardo and Anatomy section, is a series of sixteen models of machines, which the genius studied with an approach very similar to the one he used to understand the workings of the human body. Digital reconstructions accompany the models on display in a comparison of real and virtual, allowing visitors to imagine and understand how the machines worked. An Oculus virtual reality visor application allows visitors to go beyond the actual visiting experience to touch “hands-on,” put into operation and even disassemble four gears designed by Leonardo.

“The work done with the Museo Leonardiano in Vinci,” says Massimo Bergamasco, professor of Applied Mechanics of Machines and director of the Institute of Mechanical Intelligence at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, “represents another prestigious opportunity for the Institute of Mechanical Intelligence to apply research on digital and virtual technologies to the world of culture, an area of study that the Institute’s ACE (Art, Culture, Education) group has been cultivating for more than two decades now. It was very interesting to range from the characterization of spaces through multimedia content to the creation of true immersive experiences, which allow for a first-person approach, particularly suitable for the devices designed by Leonardo, which, in this way, literally come to life in our hands.”

For all information about the museum, reservations and online ticket purchase, visit www.museoleonardiano.it

Leonardo Museum opens up to virtual reality to showcase Leonardo's machines
Leonardo Museum opens up to virtual reality to showcase Leonardo's machines

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