What makes a watch tick? How does a sewing machine stitch? Where does an iPod get its shuffle? For people who have ever asked these questions, the South Florida Museum’s newest special exhibit — Things Come Apart — will be a revelation.
Circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, this special showing features the works of creative photographer and tinkerer Todd McLellan, who looked inside the evolutions of the smartphone and dozens of other everyday technologies to display the complex inner works that have spurred revolutions in product design and functionality across multiple industries.
The exhibition, which is now open and on view through Aug. 19, comes on the heels of the Museum’s recent How People Make Things exhibition and further showcases science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts.
“But the new Things Come Apart exhibit pushes beyond STEM and into STEAM by adding in the artistic elements of application, creation, ingenuity and beauty,” said Jeff Rodgers, Museum Provost and COO. “Through its visual history lesson of mechanical innovation, Things Come Apart also highlights the contrast between old-world craftsmanship and sleek modern engineering for a visually compelling and thought-provoking exhibition that highlights the critical processes of creativity and innovation.”
Through more than 40 captivating photographs, videos and objects encased in acrylic, Things Come Apart displays not only the most revolutionary product designs and concepts, but also highlights the staying power of classic designs — like the evergreen bicycle.
To develop the exhibition, McLellan spent countless hours disassembling objects of all sizes and function with painstaking precision into hundreds or even thousands of pieces. With each object — from a watch to a laptop and a Walkman to an upright piano — fully stripped to its bare parts, McLellan methodically worked backwards, laying out each item in reverse order from the protective case to the smallest circuits until he captured the true scope of each design.
Younger visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to become part of the experience through the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center’s Spark!Lab activities. These collaborative, hands-on challenges offer hypothetical situations that allow critical thinking and team creativity to flourish and provide fun skill building. The Spark!Lab activity kits are provided through a grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.
Things Come Apart is truly a revelation about our favorite things. Technological advances have increased with exponential speed since the second half of the 20th century. Consumers have demanded that their gadgets be increasingly capable and reliable while also being sleeker and more portable. The resulting devices are smaller and more complex than ever before while having the life cycle of a fruit fly.
“We don’t always think about the tools we use, but working on this project has given me a greater respect for engineering of newer technology,” said McLellan. “It’s remarkable how much modern design packs into so little.”
The exhibition is included in the cost of admission and is open during regular Museum hours, 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, contact the South Florida Museum at 941.746.4131 or online at www.SouthFloridaMuseum.org.
Todd McLellan is a photographer who specializes in conceptual work. He nurtured his love for conceptual photography at the Alberta College of Art and Design, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2002. He released the book Things Come Apart in 2013 and continues to make inspired visuals in his Toronto studio and on location which can be seen at toddmclellan.com.
Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at sites.si.edu.