Exhibitions

Eli Whitney Museum

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The 23rd Leonardo Challenge

Leonardo in Bloom

Gladiolus by Alexis Brown

Inventions of the Flower

A flower's bloom beckons – Notice me! Its colors, scent, texture and anatomy summon suitors with messages of hunger, nectar and procreation. That lust for life may underlie the power that summons us. We make flowers our companions. When our voices seem inadequate, we appropriate their voices to speak our congratulations, our confidences, our condolences. Long ago we invested in flowers mythical and divine associations to narrate creations we cannot explain. We still revel in their tidings of Winter's end. We breed and domesticate flowers. We exploit their alchemy for medicine and witchcraft. We extract their colors and fragrances. We press and dry them. We trade them over great distances…all to wrestle with their ephemeral presence. To preserve the essence of flowers, we make art.

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The Gilbert Project

Mr. Gilbert's Railroad 2016

The Museum's Annual Exhibition of American Flyer Trains
Driving the Trains

Classic toy trains produced by New Haven's A.C. Gilbert Company still run beautifully after 50 years. See them in action at the Eli Whitney Museum's annual hands-on exhibition of American Flyer Trains. Come run toy trains that your parents and grandparents ran more than 50 years ago and build wooden toy trains to take home.

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The 22nd Leonardo Challenge

Imagination in Focus

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The arc of a raindrop on a leaf magnifies its veins and our understanding of seeing.

Egyptian artisans mimicked the curve of eyes in glass to give their statues uncanny spirit. Assyrians in Nimrud may have used a rock crystal to concentrate the sun’s rays into a spot of fire. In the Middle Ages, the polymath Abas ibn Firnas crafted reading stones of glass. Refined lenses awakened the sciences, explorations and arts of the Renaissance.

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The Gilbert Project

Mr. Gilbert's Railroad 2015

The Museum's Annual Exhibition of American Flyer Trains
Driving the Trains

Classic toy trains produced by New Haven's A.C. Gilbert Company still run beautifully after 50 years. See them in action at the Eli Whitney Museum's annual hands-on exhibition of American Flyer Trains. Come run toy trains that your parents and grandparents ran more than 50 years ago and build wooden toy trains to take home.

We are pleased to thank WSHU as the Media Sponsor of this year's train show.

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The 21st Leonardo Challenge

Uncharted Imagination

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Not long ago travelers consulted paper maps distributed by service stations gratuitously, but difficult to refold. Today watches, phones and cars themselves provide directions, sometimes with animated updates and commentary voiced in dulcet but skeptical tones. A decade has transformed the ancient arts of cartography radically. Early maps recorded star patterns that marked changing seasons. Now the celestial robots of GPS guide us to lost car keys. Early maps defined the boundaries of unknown territories. Now we wonder if there is any space unmapped. We need a map to track the changing meanings of all these maps.

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The Gilbert Project

Mr. Gilbert's Railroad

The Museum's Annual Exhibition of American Flyer Trains
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Classic toy trains produced by New Haven's A.C. Gilbert Company still run beautifully after 50 years. See them in action at the Eli Whitney Museum's annual hands on exhibition of American Flyer Trains.

Learn More...
The 20th Leonardo Challenge

Knot What You Imagine

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The Knot

A knot is a simple or elaborate twist and interlacing of fibers. The knot's structure makes the fibers into something new: a tool, a weapon, an ornament, a calculation, a message. Snare a rabbit. Net a fish. Lash a sail. Cinch a saddle. Gird your loins. Plait your hair. These ordinary bindings are nodes of civilization. Or a knot can be personal. Touch your navel. It remembers the knot that first defined you as an individual.

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2013 Exhibition

The Erector Set at 100

What to Make of It?
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Alfred Carlton Gilbert, a 1909 Yale graduate, had lingered in New Haven to produce and sell magic tricks. In 1911, he watched the steel tower construction to electrify the New Haven Railroad’s access to the new Grand Central Terminal. Steel and electricity were reinventing America. Gilbert invented the Erector Set to capture that spirit.

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The 19th Leonardo Challenge

Brush With Genius

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Consider the Lady with an Ermine, Leonardo's stunning portrait of Cecelia, the mistress of Ludovice Sforza, the Duke of Milan and Leonardo's patron. The painting brims with movement, with immediacy, and with bold brushwork. Leonardo paints in the new medium of oils.

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The 18th Leonardo Challenge

Enumerated Invention

Fibonacci Spiral

Numbers
In the late middle ages, a new arithmetic followed the spice trade from India to Italy on Arab ships. It brought place value, simplified calculation, and the digits we recognize as our own. These were the type of numbers Gutenberg needed for his press. These are the numbers that Leonardo learned in his apprenticeship with Verrocchio.

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The 17th Leonardo Challenge

Reflected Creativity

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The Mirror
Our earliest ancestor recognized a face reflected in a pool of still water: there began the evolution of our idea of self. Ancient cultures captured reflections in stone, iron, coal, copper, silver, and glass. In mirrors, priests and magicians saw prophecies and vessels of the soul. Mirrors educated artists and scientists. As a child, you noticed your mother's furtive glance at her face in a compact's tiny glass. You suspected this attention was not for you.

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The 16th Leonardo Challenge

Cap & Caprice

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A little over a hundred years ago, the tiny crown cap opened a revolution. Its tin-plated disc of thin steel, pleated round its edge, compressed a sliver of cork over the lip of a bottle's deliberately slender neck. Coca Cola escaped the confines of the Drug Store fountain. Beer left the tavern. We christened the machine age of drink.

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