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Leonardo da Vinci, popular genius

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science workers are putting the finishing touches on the long-awaited Leonardo da Vinci exhibit that opens Saturday to the public.

It is the museum’s largest exhibit in five years.

Da Vinci – The Genius, is a 15,000-square-foot exhibit comprised of two parts that will take up the entire second floor of the museum, as well as the start-up gallery area on the first floor.

The exhibit contains more than 200 pieces, and about 75 are large-scale or interactive models of da Vinci’s inventions and designs. It also contains drawings that were studies for some of his masterpieces.

“This is an opportunity that we’ve never had before,” museum director Margie Marino said. “The exhibit is not linear in any way. There’s no sequence to the exhibit, so visitors can start at any point they wish.”

The exhibit is the biggest the museum has hosted since the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition in March 2013.

Marino and her staff are planning for a busy run with the exhibition – especially in the first few weeks.

This model of Leonardo da Vinci’s aerial screw, or vite aerea, will be on display at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Leonardo’s design has been identified as the ancestor of today’s helicopter. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“When we had Titanic, there was a rush at the beginning and at the end,” she said. “Da Vinci will be around for six months, and we want to plan it out so everyone who comes will enjoy it.”

The museum is still hoping to get its online ticketing system working by Saturday, but visitors will be able to buy tickets at the museum for Saturday’s opening day. There may be lines, however, and if the museum is full, you will be given a ticket for a later time.

Marino said that, when purchasing online, a limited number of tickets will be available for each time block, and visitors will be able to choose a time.

“This is to limit the number of people coming in per hour,” she said. “It’s also to make sure that people can avoid and are aware of school groups. We want each person’s experience to be great.”

Marino said the number of tickets will be adjusted based on the capacity set by the fire marshal.

When purchasing a ticket, each visitor will be given a wrist band, which is good for the day. It will also get visitors into the planetarium.

Marino said that an audio tour will also be available for an upcharge for those who want more detail.

Although da Vinci is known for such works as the “Mona Lisa,” “The Vitruvian Man” and “The Last Supper,” he also spent much of his time inventing and drawing early concepts for the car, bicycle, helicopter, glider and parachute, all of which will be on display.

A walk through part of the exhibit late Thursday revealed prototypes of several of those inventions, including a massive flying machine that looks like a giant corkscrew and a futuristic-looking tank you would expect to see in a sci-fi movie.

The exhibit was created by Grande Exhibitions of Australia, in collaboration with the Museo Leonardo da Vinci in Rome, as well as French scientific engineer Pascal Cotte and a number of experts in Italy and France.

This model of Leonardo da Vinci’s aerial screw, or vite aerea, will be on display at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Leonardo’s design has been identified as the ancestor of today’s helicopter. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

With above-average attendance expected, Marino said that more volunteers are ready to help museum visitors.

“The museum has hundreds of volunteers, and we’re working and making sure there is plenty of staff available,” she said. “It’s going to be busy the first couple of days. There are going to be crowds. We will have people located at both locations for the exhibit.”

Marino is looking forward to the exhibit, because, as an artist, she has studied da Vinci.

“One of the first things I received as a gift for an art award was a da Vinci book,” she said. “It’s a real joy, and I’m as excited as others. I ask for people’s patience during the first couple of weeks.”

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