York

31 Days of History: York’s Forgotten Museum

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March 30th, 2012
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This is the most recent history piece in the series and tells the tale of a now forgotten treasure that was in our city until as recent as 2003. Many out there won’t have heard of it, or even know it existed, especially those new to the city like myself. However, the Museum of Automata, which resided on number 9 Tower Street, used to be one of York’s popular attractions. Opened in 1987, but closing down in 2003, the Museum showcased all things automated, in particular, robots.

Automata machines are mechanical devices made to imitate human actions. Featuring automated gadgets and and items of historical and technological interest from across the ages, the museum also featured many robots from over one hundred years ago to modern times.

The Museum was a must for local and visiting families and tech geeks to have a mooch around, with the opportunity to build your own robot or push the buttons of numerous gadgets to see what happens!

Visitors could view for themselves the history of mechanically moving objects, witnessing the technological developments in Automation, from robots, to mechanical clowns, to ancient figurines. The museum also featured the collection of Jack Donovan, a famous British automata collector.

Surrounded in mythology, automata has been referenced throughout history, dating back as far as the Ancient Greeks, particularly writings concerning Hephaestus, God of all mechanical arts.

Created using materials such as card, wood and metal, popular examples of automata include Jumping Jacks, Cuckoo Clocks, for example, and these mechanical devices were and still are often used as toys, gadgets, religious idols, or to demonstrate basic scientific principles.

Unfortunately no longer open in York, the Automata Museum brought fascinating, unusual, intricate and playful ancient and modern automata toys, figurines and gadgets to York.

 

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