Eli Whitney Museum

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The 7th Leonardo Challenge

Turns of Mind

Nature turns wheels with muscle, wind and water in dutiful simplicity. Leonardo's mind reconstructs that movement. He collects and contrives twists and turns to compose an infinite choreography: sometimes a dull march, sometimes a graceful waltz, sometimes a jazzy jitterbug.

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The 6th Leonardo Challenge


Draughts are an ancient diversion. Pharaohs played. Like games evolved in China, India, Turkey and Africa. A book on checkers was printed when books were first printed in Leonardo’s epoch.

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The 5th Leonardo Challenge


Arteries work 1

Leonardo sees through surface. He sees the channels, conduits, and capillaries that structure and animate the flower, the insect, the city the body, the earth. Leonardo sees a universal web of connections.

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The Gilbert Project

Yesterday and Tomorrow

The Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden reaches back to the 1939 World's Fair for it's 14th annual train exhibition. "Yesterday and Tomorrow" boasts scale replicas of some 60 buildings from the famous fair as well as four trains that visitors can control.

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The 4th Leonardo Challenge

Leonardo's Wellspring

The Mechanical spring was a metallurgic innovation newly mastered in Leonardo's Renaissance. Leonardo foresaw its influence in clocks , crossbows and flintlocks, in wind-up cars and robots. If a device could have two states at once compressed and spring or stretched and recoiled, is it not emblematic of the universal energy that Leonardo's eye uncovered?

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The Gilbert Project

Learning Power

Gilbert smoking pipe

1913 was the threshold of the electric age. A.C. Gilbert, age 29, had just conceived a steel construction set. His Erector Set's girders modeled the new trestles and skyscrapers. Almost as an afterthought, Gilbert added the parts to construct a small battery-powered motor. That began a line of experimental motors that would become the heart of the Erector Set.

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The 3rd Leonardo Challenge

Unmatched Leonardo


We asked artists to consider a box of wooden kitchen matches. These are at first the simplest and fullest expression of mass production convenience and uniformity. And yet they can ignite the imagination. These anonymous forms offer an infinitely variable armature for the creative mind.

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The Gilbert Project

Classical Blocks

Classical Blocks exhibition shot

Blocks from the Gilbert Company, from the Gilbert Era, from before and after Gilbert. Explore the evolution of materials, styles of connection, styles of instruction. Artifacts from the Museum's collection; the Collections of Steve Olin, Keith Rancourt and others.

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The Gilbert Project

Gilbert and the Radio

Show Logo

In 1920, Guglielmo Marconi would broadcast opera on England's first commercial station. Within months, A.C. Gilbert would install a transmitter at his New Haven factory. He was the sixth American to hold a commercial license. His career in radio was brief and yet his radio tower became a symbol for his enduring passion for technology.

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The Gilbert Project

Flyer at 50

American Flyer Ad

1946: The world began to rebuild itself after the devastation and destruction of the second World War. At an age when other men might have begun looking to retirement, A.C. Gilbert set out to add to his immensely popular line of pre-war learning toys. The result was a line of trains redesigned so completely that they bear only the name of the company he purchased in 1939: American Flyer.

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The 2nd Leonardo Challenge

Platonic Spools

Consider the spool and the cigar box. They are familiar and natural building blocks which give form to the first creations of children. They offer the experienced designer a universal geometry to explore.

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The Leicester Codex

In the demonstration room, visitors were guided through re-creations of some of the observations and experiments that Leonardo himself either described or illustrated in the Codex Leicester. Designed in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History these demonstrations reveal Leonardo as a keen observer who was strikingly ahead of his time.

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