I was recently at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. The Amazing Machines Gallery has some of the best examples of basic mechanics that I have seen. You can experiment with pulleys, lever, gears and cams, and there are also plenty of exploded views of the workings of everyday machines including a giant can crusher.
Kinetic sculptor and architect Ben Trautman has made three machines for the gallery. This large machine has a beautiful almost organic, fluid movement, reminiscent of birds wings. Ben also makes the most fascinating folding sculptures of buildings and birds.
A highlight of our visit was a live demonstration of the recently restored Maillardet’s Automaton from 1810. The detailed drawings and poems were exquisite.
If you are visiting the Franklin also make sure to take a look at four of Carlos Zapata’s automata on the theme of electricity in the home in the ‘Franklin: He’s Electric’ Gallery, which is close by.