In 2007, the marvelous Maillardet automaton at the Franklin Institute was in need of some attention. Andrew Baron from New Mexico was selected for the restoration work. How does it come to pass that a man best known for his clever paper engineering for pop-up books ends up work on a two hundred year old metal automaton?
Andrew Baron has created an essay and web site to answer this question. On the web site, we also learn about his association with the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian O. Selznick. The essay offers other fascinating details of Baron's time with the Maillardet automaton. Take for example, this excerpt in which we learn that he was able to restore motions to the automaton that had not been seen in recent history:
The restoration detail I'm most proud of is that I was able to restore the graceful, life-like movement of the automaton's head and eyes, as though the moving figure is thoughtfully engaged in its own act of creation. Although the automaton had seen prior and major restoration efforts between 1871 and 1981, this elegant movement that imparts so much character was lost for more than a century and hadn't been seen by any living person.
The web site also features some nice photographs and imagery -- some of it drawn by the automaton itself. For those who really want all the details of the restoration work, Andrew Baron has included his Automaton Restoration Report.
Here is where you can visit Andrew Baron's web site, My Time with the Hugo Automaton.
Baron will also be presenting two different Hugo/automaton related slide shows, at the invitation of the Midwest Watch and Clockmakers Association in Minneapolis on May 4 & 5. For further details on the event visit: http://www.mwca.us/