The Amazing Machine exhibit allows visitors to flow through a machine-like room highlighted by three stunning kinetic mechanical art installations by sculptor and architect Ben Trautman, little-seen pieces from The Franklin Institute’s renowned science collection, and a captivating series of interactive displays that are designed to bring out the heavy equipment operator in all of us.

Everyday machines are displayed in “exploded” views. Their parts, separated and visible, allow a bird’s eye view of the interior of such workhorses as the household vacuum cleaner, power drill and thermostat. Interactivity is a central element of Amazing Machine! Visitors are invited to experience how components (like gears, cams, pulleys and linkages), and different kinds of power sources and control mechanisms all work together in machines large and small, from a real backhoe and giant can crusher to the tiny pocket watch.

Among the more than two dozen awe-inspiring and rarely-displayed machines from The Franklin Institute’s priceless collection are the fascinating model of the famous six-foot-tall model of the Strasbourg cathedral clock, the brilliant 1810 Maillardet automaton that can still render several drawings, clock movements dating back to the 1600s and a Singer toy sewing machine (c. 1890).

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About Ben Trautman's Sculptures

Entry Piece
This installation is intended to communicate the delicacy and fluidity of mechanical motion and the sculptural form of mechanical structures. The 12 foot tall by 30 foot long curving mechanical wall moves slowly like a forest of sea kelp wavering in the currents. The forms of the piece are made to create tapering facets that catch the light in various ways throughout the length of its cycle.

Overhead Piece
This installation uses an auger bit like an Archimedean screw or a worm drive, translating the rotation along the shaft to the three large gear wheels in the ceiling. The pieces reach and extend into space, contract, twist, different motions layered together, while the large auger below emphasizes the geometry that makes it all move.

Escapement Piece
This sculpture uses technology once used to control the accurate timing in watches called "escapements." This technology, freed from the functional need to keep time, now wanders into more chaotic worlds of motion and form, overlapping, repeating, clicking with the large skeletal frame suggesting some beast misplaced in time. Silhouetted by the city behind it, the angular steel structure supports the many mechanical motions of the sculpture.

The mechanical installations bridges the divide that often separates technology and science from the world of art and expression. The installations communicates the delicacy and fluidity of mechanical motion, the beauty and wonder of machines and the attributes they share with living things. The physical requirements of motion, whether biological or mechanical, give rise to many commonalities between living forms and mechanical assemblies. The stresses at moving joints, the need for a control of motion, durability and structure are all essential elements in both living organisms and machines. The installation links science, art and nature, drawing from physics and engineering, transforming that knowledge into beautiful form inspired by organic geometries. It invites the visitors to the museum to look at the motions and figure out how it all works, to look at the forms and think of beauty and life, to look and be curious. Above all, the installations embodies the experimentation and playfulness of mechanical invention and the expression of sculptural form.