The joy of mechanical contraptions

What is The Henry Ford bringing to Maker Faire Detroit? Well, in addition to a complete devotion to the sharing and celebration of innovation, and the fact that it is hosting the more than 400 Makers exhibiting at the event … The Henry Ford is “showing mechanical contraptions in which Henry Ford would delight,” says senior conservator Clara Deck.

Miniature Steam Engine - Maker Faire Detroit The Henry Ford

Clara shows miniature steam engines being prepped for display during the July 28-29 event. They are two of the more than 50 that are part of The Henry Ford’s collections.

Last year, when I visited the Maker Faire Detroit with my family, we all certainly delighted in the items from the collections that were brought out just for the fair.

Clara Deck demonstrates a phonograph

There were demonstrations of musical items – including this phonograph – many of which will make an encore appearance this year.

Earlier this month, Clara took me to the museum’s photo studio to get a closer look at some of the artifacts that will be shown and demonstrated during Maker Faire Detroit. She said all collections items displayed at Maker Faire Detroit will be accessible to visitors on The Henry Ford’s digital collections site. A few, including the phonograph, were in line for their photo shoot.

Making a recording on the phonograph.At the fair in 2011, when watching a demonstration of the phonograph, we were completely enchanted when – with the help of museum staff – Matthew Romaine, a performer and teacher from Windsor, Ontario, made the most charming recording.

I was thrilled when Clara said she could share a digital copy. You can listen to the audio here:

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Clara explained to me that the phonograph democratized access to music in the home. As the first affordable playback device, the phonograph was also the first home recording device. A maker – high school chemistry teacher – in England taught himself how to replicate the complex formula for the very hard wax phonograph cylinders used by the museum to demonstrate the machine.

Prior to phonographs, unless you played an instrument, having music in your home was quite expensive. You had to either hire musicians or have the budget for a music box like the one below. In addition to providing a rather complex and beautiful sound, the lovely (and large!) piece of furniture was a prestigious addition to the home decor of more prosperous Americans.

Music Box - Maker Faire Detroit The Henry Ford

Take a look at this video as Clara explains about the workings of the Violano Virtuoso. After a very loud and exciting test-run start, she said the machine decided to pose a challenge during its prep for Maker Faire Detroit. The combination violin/piano operates electronically. Here’s hoping it cooperates for the Maker Faire.

In addition to mechanical musical contraptions, The Henry Ford will display some pre-cinema machines, such as the mutoscope below, that are sure to engage and inspire even the youngest visitors.

Maker Faire Detroit - Mutoscope

Maker Faire Detroit is from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 28-29. For more information, tickets, schedules and accommodations, visit the Maker Faire Detroit website, the Maker Faire Detroit Facebook page or follow @thehenryford #makerfairedetroit on Twitter.