The MAD Museum

It may be a little bit crazy, but that’s not where it gets its name from; The MAD Museum is a celebration of Mechanical Art and Design, showcasing some of the weirdest and most wonderful examples of engineering. There are pieces that can just look like a mish-mash of gears and gizmos and you wonder how on earth they function, but function they do, and as you make your way around, you can’t help but enjoy this marvellous little museum.

What makes The MAD Museum so enjoyable is that the majority of exhibits encourage you to get involved – press that button and turn that lever! It’s refreshingly different and makes the whole experience a lot of fun for visitors of all ages.

The MAD Museum

The two main types of attractions are what’s called kinetic art and automata. Kinetic art tends to be three-dimensional sculptures that can be moved by external influences, such as the wind, a machine or a person. They range from something as simple as a mobile to a complex beast like Jean Tinguely’s ‘Metamatic’ that was made from various things, including bicycles. It could reel off up to 20,000 of its own abstract paintings per day.

On the other hand, automata is Greek for ‘acting of one’s own will’. That’s why automatons are designed to give the impression that they are moving without any outside influences and of their own free will. Automata is an art form that dates back to the Ancient Greeks. The famous mathematician Hero of Alexandria, for example, designed a bird bath with singing metal birds and a mechanical owl. When the owl turned its head towards the birds, they’d go quiet.

Things get much more complex than that at The MAD Museum though. There’s even an exhibit from Rowland Emett; the man who designed the quirky inventions in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. So if you’re on Henley Street, maybe you’ve just visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace and you’ve got an hour or so to kill, pop in. You won’t regret it.


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