MuseumMinute

The Genius

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I visited the Science Center of Iowa, in part to see their current “blockbuster” exhibit, Da Vinci: The Genius. As I mentioned in a previous post, we visited the Science Center a week before Da Vinci was scheduled to close, and the place was packed. Absolutely filled to the brim with anxious exhibit-goers.

From a Museum perspective I found it wonderful that so many people were excited to see the exhibit. From a guest perspective, I found the crowds a bit distracting.

Also, before going any further, I should explain that my reaction to the exhibit is definitely biased; in 2006 I was deeply involved in a 20,000 sq. ft. exhibit about Leonardo da Vinci at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, called Leonardo da Vinci: Man, Inventor, Genius. As a content developer/manager for Man, Inventor, Genius, I learned more about the life and accomplishments of Leonardo da Vinci than most people will learn in a lifetime.

That said, I wasn’t able to experience Da Vinci: The Genius as an ordinary visitor. Many of da Vinci’s most exciting accomplishments–such as his inventions (both as drawings and 3D models), writing style and art–were old hat to me. Which is a shame. Thus, Da Vinci: The Genius didn’t leave me with the same sense of awe as many other Science Center visitors.

But there was one area of the exhibit that really got to me: The Secrets of the Mona Lisa Gallery. (To see photos, visit the exhibit’s website and scroll to the bottom–I recommend it.) The Mona Lisa Gallery discusses the latest findings of a detailed analysis, which has discovered new information about the paint, artistry and conservation needs of this famous work of art. The room is filled from top to bottom with enlarged images of the painting, which provide the guests with a one-of-a-kind look into the mind of the artist.

My favorite part of the entire exhibit was in this room: in the center of the gallery, a facsimile of the Mona Lisa hung, sandwiched between two pieces of plexiglas, as if it was floating. As you walk around this facsimile, you realize that they have also recreated the back of the masterpiece! A label explains the provenance behind each marking written or stamped on the back of the piece. What a unique experience!

The exhibit has been extended in Des Moines until March 20, 2011, and I definitely recommend you check it out–how else will you ever see the back of the Mona Lisa?!

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