Leonardo da Vinci diagrammed one of the first parachutes designed in the late 15th century.
Since Leonardo da Vinci was a well-known polymath, artist, and engineer, many reference questions about him have come to the The Museum Studies & Reference Library (MS&RL) reference desk over the years.
The Museum Studies & Reference Library (MS&RL) collection is strong in museum studies, including publications produced to accompany exhibitions. MS&RL also serves the general reference needs of the Smithsonian Institution, and contains basic and “classical” books on an eclectic range of subjects.
“As the world’s largest and most complex museum, the Smithsonian Institution is a leader in the growth and advancement of museum studies theory and practice. The museum studies literature collection is one of the mechanisms that enables the Smithsonian Institution to perform this task. The Smithsonian Institution museum studies collection is unique to the museum profession. The Smithsonian Institution holds the most comprehensive collection of historic and contemporary literature worldwide. No other organization or university has anything that comes close in scope or depth. These materials have served as the basis for the creation of numerous important books and journal articles that are influencing the shape of the museum field today.”—Nancy Fuller, Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies
The Libraries currently has 277 books and manuscripts by, or about, Leonardo da Vinci held in eight of our libraries: The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, MS&RL, National Air & Space Museum Library, National Museum of American History Library, National Museum of Natural History Library (Birds), Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library, Smithsonian American Art/National Portrait Gallery Library, and the Smithsonian Institution Libraries Research Annex.
One online exhibition to see: Baylor University, Mayborn Museum Complex, Leonardo da Vinci . . . Experience the genius of Leonardo da Vinci through forty machines based on his visionary designs.
For more on the history of the parachute.—Amy Levin
Image: Leonardo Da Vinci: experience, experiment and design, Martin Kemp.