Wondrous Machines

Coming Soon 

Hero of Alexandria’s (1st century AD) theatrical automata were complex, self-powered ancient robots designed to create an atmosphere of awe and inspire wonder. In his treatise On Making Automata, Hero describes his mobile automaton, a mobile shrine that not only opened doors, spouted wine and water, lit altars and rotated miraculously, but also auto-propelled. In 2016, a research team at the University of Glasgow set out to test the practical viability of Hero’s robots by studying Hero’s text carefully and applying current robotics technologies to build an experimental replica. As part of this project, UQ’s Dr Duncan Keenan Jones also created a 3D reconstruction of Hero’s mobile automaton. Both the 3D model and physical replica demonstrate how simple components such as falling weights, screws, cords, pulleys and axels, could be used to create complex and spectacular machines by ancient engineers.

Inspired by the enduring appeal of machines and robots in the modern world, the exhibition Wondrous Machines explores both ancient and modern fascination with mechanical devices such as automata, and the ancient performances, spectacles and events at which these extraordinary machines and mechanisms were on display. 

In order to do this, digital and physical models of the basic components and mechanisms that Hero of Alexandria describes as integral to his mobile automaton will be used to explain both how ancient machines functioned, and how seemingly simple components have inspired modern machines and robots today. By incorporating artefacts from the R.D. Milns Antiquities Museum collection, the exhibition also examines ancient and modern preoccupation with wonders, spectacles, games and curiosities. 


Wondrous Machines VIP Preview

28 September 2022 10:00am
Exhibition Preview

Wondrous Machines Exhibition Opening

7 October 2022 6:00pm
Exhibition Opening