Da Vinci, The Man Who Had It All

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Leonardo Da Vinci, the man who had it all. For fans of the movie, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” you don’t need a time machine to meet him. He’s right in our backyard at the Denver Nature and Science Museum. Most people know that Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, but don’t know about his other skills.  As DMNS archeologist Steve Nash put it, “Da Vinci was STEAM before STEAM was a thing.” Nash proposed a puzzle for us to think about as we walked around the exhibit, “What would Da Vinci say if he were here now?” Leonardo Da Vinci died 500 years ago, so we should appreciate his work today, because it hasn’t been in the past.

When you first walk into the exhibit, there is a room with plaques on the walls and signs that will tell you about his life. Something I found really interesting was that Da Vinci wrote backwards, for reasons no one knows. Some think it is because he wanted to protect his ideas, a kind of copyright. Others think it was to teach him to write without smearing the paper with ink. Then, there are replicas of journals that he wrote in, along with drawings of his latest and greatest invention ideas. After that, there’s another room that is much bigger filled with his contraptions. The main things in the first part are the bicycle, rolling ball bearings, and a self driving car that was probably used as a stage prop. Some of the artifacts, like the ball bearings, have a handle crank that you can touch and work the machine with. Moving on into the next part, there were war machines Da Vinci created. There was a giant crossbow, and other things that looked too vicious for me to want to read about, the scariest being swinging scythes.

A small portion of the exhibit was dedicated to teaching you about perspective. You drew on a piece of plastic with dry-erase marker that covered a mirror. You draw yourself with one eye closed, and when you finish, slip in some laminated parchment to see it better and compare it to your actual looks. Other things were on the table that you could draw too. I selected a small recreation of a tank to draw the second time. Nearby, was another place filled with his studies and drawings of the human body. In the same general area, there were lots of instruments that he built. For example, a portable piano that he came up with. Also, a flying machine hung from the ceiling. Beyond that, a section about the Mona Lisa. This part explains how he painted it and points things out you never would have noticed.

The exhibit has audio for a small charge and is available in both English and Spanish. It also has actors, from that time period, in costume and accent to answer questions. The exhibit also has a slideshow showcasing lots of his paintings. I know that I will be going back to this exhibit because I got to learn about Da Vinci, the man who had it all.