The Autry's Rube Goldberg Device

Posted on: April 30, 2019
Topics: Exhibitions

The Autry recently added a Rube Goldberg Machine to the Investigating Griffith Park exhibition. Co-Curator Carolyn Brucken sat down with Landon Jones, a museum Preparator and the builder of the Rube Goldberg machine, to ask a few questions:

What is a Rube Goldberg Machine anyway?

Reuben Garrett Luscious Goldberg (1883-1970) was a satirical cartoonist who became famous for his drawings of humorously impractical mechanisms, published nationally in The New York Evening Mail during the first half of the 20th century. A Rube Goldberg Device is an impractically diverse mechanism, built by improvisation, to perform a simple, debatably-labor-saving function.  

How long did it take to build it?

This particular 14 pinball device took 6 months to build and taught me a great deal about material stress and the demands of designing for physical automation.

What is your favorite thing about it?

The opportunity to self-educate while following the path of curiosity is the essence of job satisfaction.  Approaching this constant goal, employed with a mere undergraduate degree, is nothing short of miraculous in 2019.  Fostering creativity in a landscape of automatic rationalism is a priceless boon to joy and the synergies that frame my life.  

Is there anything else you would like visitors to know about it?

The device includes a few historically novel objects such as the amber glass indicator light, taken from the control room of America's first nuclear reactor used for municipal power and its two cast-glass structural columns terminated with brass fittings. These were made during the electrical revolution of Nicola Tesla's time and used to mount high voltage components on marble slabs before plastic, fiberglass, or phenolic resin was available for that purpose.  

The device's moving parts are all motivated by a 1/2 horsepower electric gear-motor delivering power through belts, pulleys, bevel gears and an eccentric wheel.  The device's lighting is delivered by fiber optic lines from a single daylight balanced lightbulb inside the lower cabinet.

The Autry's Rube Goldberg Device