Please touch: Lessons from Leonardo da Vinci

“Oh my God!!!!  We’re allowed to touch!”

“Look at the sign!”

Those were the squealing voices I heard recently at the brilliant Da Vinci-The Genius exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC.  The exhibit showcases full-scale machines, reproductions of famous Renaissance paintings, and detailed anatomical sketches from Leonardo da Vinci. The interactive inventions are beautifully crafted by Italian artisans working from Leonardo’s codices. And almost everywhere are signs that read, “Please touch.”

Kids were running all over pulling and pushing levers and laughing and squealing. And so were adults.

The interactive exhibit provides a clear reminder that as humans, we are  designed to manipulate objects in our world. To touch, grasp, push, pull, clutch, rotate, stroke, manipulate, poke, and hold. Perhaps no one personifies this ability better than da Vinci, who used his hands as an inventor, artist, scientist, anatomist, engineer, architect, and sculptor.

Exhibits should not be spectator events. Museum curators would be wise to watch kids interact in this space. One of the kids may be a future da Vinci.

Leonardo da Vinci resources

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