Thursday, January 07, 2010

Automata Orchestra in Malmo Sweden

Automata Orchestra in Malmo Sweden
Reader Jerry Johansson wrote to ask about this amazing automata orchestra that is currently on display at the Technical and Maritime Museum in Malmo, Sweden.

Jerry writes:
Little is known about the orchestra but it's said to be constructed in England sometime during the 1920s. A well known Swedish toy expert came to the conclusion that the orchestra must have been serial made, but due to the size (it is life size) of the orchestra, and the rather complicated machinery, I don't find that statement plausible. I was wondering if you might have any information regarding robotic orchestras, or indeed any robotics manufactured in England during this time period?

For so little to be known about such a large and complicated system does seem a strange mystery. If you happen to know anything about this or similar automata bands, leave a comment at the end of this post.

Here's a link to a video featuring the Automata Orchestra.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

automatesgalerie - automata museum in Belgium

Our colleagues at the Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik blog have alerted us to some exciting news. A new automata museum has open in Brussels, Belgium featuring the following automata artists:

- Keith Newstead
- Robert Race
- John Grayson
- J Ch Detallante
- L & A St-Léger
- Wanda Sowry
- Philip Lowndes
- Peter Lennertz
- Neil Hardy
- Jason Cleverly
- James Chedburn
- Jacques Jauniaux
- Ian Mckay
- Dominique Corbin
- Carlos Zapata
- Jon Mills
- Jan Zalud

Learn more at the automatesgalerie web site.
[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roland Emett sculpture exhibit - Ontario, Canada

Kinetic sculptures by Roland Emett are put on display once a year during the holiday season at the Ontario Science Centre.

Learn more about the Ontario Science Centre.

[ Thanks Keith! ]

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wood Gears & Swedish Gadgets by Per Heldorff

Wood Gears and Swedish Gadgets by Per Heldorff
Master carver Per Heldorff began carving in the Swedish slöjd tradition and progressed to mechanical work incorporating cogs, wooden gears, and animated figures. As with most contemporary automata artists, his work often contains a whimsical element.

The work of master Swedish carver Per Heldorff will be featured at The American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. The exhibit is entitled "Wooden Gears and Swedish Gadgets" and runs from August 6th through September 28th, 2008.

Here is a link to Per Heldorff's web site.

Here is a book for further reading on Swedish carving techniques -- Carving & Whittling: The Swedish Style.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum

Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum
Marvin Yagoda has been collecting vintage coin-operated machines since 1960. Open since 1990, his little museum is located a shopping mall north of Detroit in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The interior is filled with historical and modern arcade machines, sideshow wonders, fortune tellers, automata, and curiosities.

Here is the web site for Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum.

[ Thanks Shel! ]

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Photo Tour of the Vintage Toy Museum in Prague

Antique tin toy carpenters, Prague toy museum
In case you missed it the other day, posted about a wonderful flickr photograph set of The Toy Museum in Prague, Czech Republic know as Muzeum hraček.

Here's a link to the 37 image set of the Toy Museum.

Now for some attributions:
* Here is the post on the toy museum from
* Here is some info about Muzeum hraček
* Here is the original post on the Curious Expeditions blog

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated Carvings

Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated CarvingsThe Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated Carvings is in Belleville, Kansas. The Museum has a web site with many photos and animated GIF images of the automata in action.

You can also see some of his available automata here. Shown at left is a piece entitled The Old Lamp Lighter.

Finally, he offers plans for creating an animated wooden dog automata that uses magnets and a small circuit board. This looks like a great project for people learning about electronics.

Visit the web page for The Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated Carvings.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Huge Automaton from Museum in Osaka, Japan

Huge Automaton from Museum of Science in Osaka, JapanIf you didn't happen to catch it, BoingBoing Gadgets had a post today about this giant automaton in Osaka, Japan.

Housed at the Osaka Municipal Museum of Science, it has recently been restored. Apparently, it is some 80 years old. I am not at all sure what it does, but would love to know.

Here is the link to many great photos of the Giant Automaton in Osaka, Japan.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Robert-Houdin's Home - La Maison de la Magie

One of my top five heroes is Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. He is widely regarded as the father of modern magic, having taken it from the streets and into the parlors for respectable European audiences.

Trained as a watchmaker, he developed a passion for magic. He produced some of the most amazing mystery clocks and automata ever.

His home in Blois, France is open to the public as a museum and theater. Here is a short promotional clip of the Maison de la Magie (House of Magic).

There are many books by or about Robert-Houdin. Dover published an inexpensive reprint of his memoirs that you can probably find used. Steer clear Houdini's book on The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin, unless you are interested in exploring Houdini's misguided attempt to defame Robert-Houdin.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Gina Kamentsky Exhibit: Mechanical Confections

Gina Kamentsky SculptureGina Kamentsky is profiled in the Volume 13 of MAKE magazine (the same issue with my short book review of Dunninger's Complete Encyclopedia of Magic).

Gina Kamentsky is an multi-talented sculptor, animator, toy designer, inventor, musician, and teacher. Kamentsky works primarily with found materials and metal to create unique mechanical toys and kinetic sculptures.

Her solo exhibition, Gina Kamentsky: Mechanical Confections, will be on exhibition in Fuller Craft Museum's Daniel Tarlow gallery through November 9, 2008. She will be on site on March 2nd at 2:00 as part of Fuller Craft Museum's series, Objectively Speaking.

Here's a link to Fuller Craft Museum exhibits page.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Musee Baud: Automata & Mechanical Music

Comprised of pieces crafted between 1750 and 1940, the Musée Buad in l'Auberson, Switzerland looks like a wonderful museum. If you cannot visit in person, their web site offers a history of the museum, nice photographs of the the collection, audio recordings of music, and a shop that sells music boxes and automata.

From the Musée Baud site:
In our first room you will find music boxes, automata, clocks, singing birds, animated pictures and gramophones as well as other accessories, tools and souvenirs of the time period.

In our second room, one can admire the grandeur of our larger pieces while listening to these unique, priceless, mechanical musical instruments. Among the highlights include the famous "Maesto", an orchestra from 1900 comprised of 10 different instruments. Also in this room is the splendid "Phonolistz Violiona" playing solo violin.

Visit the Musée Buad web site (available in French, German, and English). [Thanks Falk!]

To learn more about mechanical music machines, check out The Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Zelinsky Collection Viewable on DVD

The Musée Mécanique, located in San Francisco, is a collection of hundreds of musical and mechanical machines. It is certainly worth a visit.

If you can't visit San Francisco any time soon, there is still a way for you to see this amazing collection: The Musée Mécanique presents The Zelinsky Collection DVD.

This 68 minute video is hosted by the man who assembled the collection, Edward Zelinsky. Mr. Zelinsky takes the viewer on a one-on-one tour of The Musée telling you a bit about each machine, where it came from, and how it was acquired.

Some of the machines the viewer will see on this DVD include:

* Many orchestrians and nickelodeons
* A beautiful mechanical horse
* Fortune telling machines
* Mechanical games
* A large and detailed carnival scene
* A vast barnyard scene with dozens of animated figures
* Funny scenes like a drunkard in a graveyard

Viewers also get to see some of the mechanisms that power these marvelous machines.

Overall, the lighting and camera-work are well done. This DVD is the next best thing to visiting the museum itself.

The video is something of a tribute to a man that truly loved coin-operated machines. We are in Edward Zelinsky's debt for assembling this collection and for ensuring that the machines continued to function. His son, Daniel Zelinsky, now oversees the exhibit. Thanks to these men visitors today can drop a coin into these machines -- as people have for decades -- to see what mechanical magic they perform.

Here is where you can purchase The Musée Mécanique presents The Zelinsky Collection DVD.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre at Kinetica Museum

If you can be or will be in the UK between April 6, 2007 and May 5, 2007 you must visit Kinetica Museum located at Old Spitalfields Market, London.

Kinetica will be hosting
a major retrospective show on Cabaret Mechanical Theatre which includes more than 80 automata and a number of previously unseen works.

The show will feature artists including: Ron Fuller, Arthur Ganson, Tim Hunkin, Will Jackson, Pierre Mayer, Keith Newstead, Paul Spooner, and Carlos Zapata. (Many of my favorite artists are in that list!)

The exhibition will also include a series of talks and hands-on workshops by the founders of CMT and prominent British automata artists. Speakers will include: Tim Hunkin, Sue Jackson, Sarah Alexander, Will Jackson and Paul Spooner.

Learn more at CMT's Mechanical Blog or visit Kinetica Museum's site

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre (CMT) dates back to 1979, when a handful of automaton artists began to work together as an artists collective.

The group, founded in 1983 in Falmouth by Sue Jackson, moved to London’s Covent Garden shortly thereafter, where their collection of automata immediately received both critical and popular acclaim.

They produced a book (shown at left) that teaches about basic mechanics and the construction of automata.

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