Advances in Historical Studies
2013. Vol.2, No.4, 175-184
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 175
Considerations on Mechanism Designs as Suitable for
Cultural Heritage Evaluation
Marco Ceccarelli
LARM: laboratory of Robotics and Mechatronics, University of Cassino and South Latium, Cassino, Italy
Received September 14th, 2013; revised October 1 6th, 2013; accepted Oc tober 26th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Marco Ceccarelli. This is an open ac cess article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights ©
2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Marco Ceccarelli. All Copyright © 2013
are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Technological developments can be considered part of Cultural Heritage that deserves to be preserved for
historical records and memories to a large public. Such a preservation can be also useful from technical
viewpoints both to track past evolutions and to understand future trends. In this paper both designs and
approaches for mechanism design are illustrated as worthy of being considered elements of Cultural Heri-
tage with both above mentioned values mainly but not only for engineers. Examples of mechanism inven-
tions and design algorithms both for whole machines and mechanism components are reported to show
how technical achievements are and can be considered for Cultural Heritage in a broad sense and applica-
tion, not only for technical use.
Keywords: History of MMS; History of Machines; Cultural Heritage; Past Mechanism Designs
It is well understood that a memory of the past helps for a
sure identity of subjects, communities, and persons. Such a
good memory is today identified as Cultural Heritage mainly
but not only for preservation of past developments and achieve-
ments in the broad sense of humanity experience (UNESCO,
In technical fields such an attention to memory of the past is
addressed as History of Science and Technology, including
History of Engineering in its specific expertise. History of
MMS (in the past TMM) is the historiographical area dealing
with history and evolution of MMS (Mechanism and Machine
Science), and it is related to technical insights on Mechanism
Science thanks to the activity of a community mainly referring
to the IFToMM PC (Permanent Commission) for History of
MMS (Koetsier, 2000).
Works on History of MMS with engineering viewpoints have
been published in Proceedings of HMM Symposium series in
the years 2000-2012, (Ceccarelli, 2000, 2004, Ceccarelli &
Yang 2008, Koetsier & Ceccarelli, 2012) and in books of a
series that has been recently started by Springer on History of
MMS (available at
Even in the past, and since the beginning of a well-recog-
nized discipline on TMM (Theory of Machines and Mecha-
nisms) (now MMS) attention has been devoted to History of
TMM to track and record technical past of MMS developments,
like for example in (Chasles, 1837; Reuleaux, 1875; De Jonge,
1943; Dimarogonas, 1993; Ferguson, 1962; Hartenberg &
Jacques Denavit, 1956; Nolle, 1974; Roth, 2000), just to cite
few significant literature sources.
Only recently History of MMS is recognized with technical
contents not only for memory purposes (to give credits to in-
ventors and scientists, and to track evolution of engineering
procedures and theories), but even for orienting future devel-
opments along well-identified directions of MMS development.
But this approach cannot be yet recognized as a technical Cul-
tural Heritage of MMS achievement, since this historical
awareness is still restricted to a small well identified technical
community and is not available to a wide public of the society
for a general understanding and appreciation.
Tangible MMS products can be recognized in machines that
have been built and operated successfully, but even unsuccess-
fully, in the past as a contribution to the evolution of Technol-
ogy and Society at local and worldwide levels. Even plans,
drawings, and patents are recognized as MMS products with
value of Cultural Heritage and in fact, they are often stored and
used in museums and exhibitions of History of Science and
Technology. Intangible MMS products can be also considered
as referring to acquired knowledge that has been expressed in
theories, algorithms, and reasoning for design and operation of
machines. In general, those intangible MMS products are diffi-
cult to be identified and stored when they have been not re-
ported in specific reports or books on corresponding tangible
MMS products. In addition, even when reported in written
documents or books those intangible MMS products are not
considered worth full of consideration for Cultural Heritage
since their technical contents make very often difficult the un-
derstanding and fruition from non-expert public. Thus, the true
contribution remains hidden or even forgotten in old books or
manuscripts in libraries and personal archives.
*Corresponding author.
This paper is an attempt to address attention both to tangible
and intangible products of MMS activities, but with a novel
attention referring to a technical content that can be understand-
able even to a large public and can be useful to current profes-
sionals. Indeed, the paper is aimed at illustrating the values of
tangible and intangible MMS products with few significant
examples. The analysis of tangible MMS products as whole
masterpieces or mechanism components is extrapolated in a
similar approach to evaluate intangible MMS products such as
conceptual designs, theories, and algorithms. Summarizing, this
paper is an attempt in the direction of illustrating how History
of MMS in its many different aspects but with technical con-
tents can be interpreted and made available as part of Cultural
Heritage for Humanity, both for memory preservation and fu-
ture use of acquired knowledge in MMS expertise.
Cultural Heritage
The concept of Cultural Heritage has been developed starting
for preservation of archaeological/monumental goods of great
significance for history of humanity. In the last two decades
interest on problems and aspects of Cultural Heritage has been
broadened to a large variety of areas, but still as concerning
with memories of Human Society evolution referring to Ar-
chaeological and Architectural Goods. The goals for Cultural
Heritage are recognized today both in goods as material objects,
like an artistic masterpiece, an architectonic building, or a
monument, and in developments of immaterial achievements,
like a language or dialect, a folkloristic celebration, or human
attitudes. The main aim of Cultural Heritage is the preservation
of those goods and developments for the future generation both
for their memory and use, in the general area of History of
In general, Cultural Heritage is defined as the legacy of
products of human ingenuity in the form of physical artifacts
and intangible attributes of a group or community that are in-
herited from past generations, maintained in the present and
bestowed for the benefit of future generations, as indicated in
(UNESCO, 2010).
Physical or tangible Cultural Heritage products are under-
stood as buildings and historic places, monuments, artifacts,
etc., that are considered worthy of preservation for the future.
These include objects significant to the Archaeology, Architec-
ture, Science or Technology of a specific culture. Nature as-
pects are also important parts of a culture, encompassing the
territory and natural environment, including what is scientifi-
cally known as biodiversity. The significance of physical arti-
facts can be interpreted against the backdrop of socioeconomic,
political, ethnic, religious and philosophical values of a par-
ticular group of people. Of course, intangible Cultural Heritage
is more difficult to preserve than physical objects.
The heritage that survives from the past is often unique and
irreplaceable, which places the responsibility of preservation on
the current generation. In general small objects such as art-
works and other cultural masterpieces are collected in museums
and art galleries for fruition to a large public.
Rules and laws have been developed in a recent past in order
to clarify the values of Heritage items and to establish criteria
and procedures for identifying and assigning credits of cultural
products. Significant is the Convention Concerning the Protec-
tion of World Cultural and Natural Heritage that was adopted
by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972 (UNESCO,
2010). Then, many other standards and agreements have been
elaborated at national and international levels, but mainly
within the frames of architectonic goods.
In extending the above concepts to technical areas and parti-
cularly to engineering fields of MMS, we may consider as tan-
gible goods the machinery and their components together with
their mechanical designs still functioning or not, and we may
consider as intangible goods procedures and algorithms for
designing and operating those machines.
But how to identify a machine or a development in MMS as
a piece of Cultural Heritage? This is usually done for traditional
heritage goods by using historical studies, but considerations
are also used in the frames of aesthetics, anthropology, nature
preservation, and other Humanity disciplines, even by looking
at economic aspects and legal constraints. Thus, from historical
viewpoint it is not difficult to identify a piece worth full of
memory preservation, mainly from a far past. Activities for
Cultural Heritage identification can be carried out with a very
complex and multidisciplinary tasks. Motivations and evalua-
tions always come from viewpoints dealing with historical con-
siderations such as from History of Humanity, History of Art,
History of Architecture, and so on. Similarly, machines and
their theoretical backgrounds can be identified as piece of Cul-
tural Heritage by using historical studies, technical interpreta-
tions, evaluations of their impacts on the Society developments
and influences on Technology, by looking yet at economic
aspects and social behavior that the affected.
Preservation and fruition of goods are important aspects for
Cultural Heritage value but they are also challenging activities
since usually they contrast to each other. In general, goods of
Cultural Heritage are stored, shown, and used in museum
frames with constraints of permitting visit to a large public with
just a visual inspection. In addition, more and more is requested
an interaction of a visitor/user with a piece of Cultural Heritage
in order to let get direct experience of significance of a piece of
Cultural Heritage at large. Machine designs and their theoreti-
cal backgrounds can be stored similarly in museums and exhi-
bitions with their tangible product counterparts but requiring
specific explanations for those technical characteristics of non
fairly easy understanding.
MMS developments, both as tangible and intangible products,
can be studied and evaluated to create frames that can be con-
sidered for Cultural Heritage as per the significance and con-
tribution of Technology in evolving the Humanity. This paper
is aimed at proposing how History of MMS can contribute to an
expansion of Cultural Heritage to technical contents by consid-
ering machines together with the corresponding engineering
Mechanism and Machine Science
The paper is focused on potential contributions of the spe-
cific area of Mechanism Design (MD) in Cultural Heritage of
technical developments. MD is a part of Mechanical Engineer-
ing (ME), since MD can include several aspects of ME as indi-
cated in the definitions of MMS and MD as reported in
IFToMM terminology. MD is linked to the broader MMS area
that includes all those aspects dealing with mechanisms. In fact,
MD is a specific focus on structure and functionality of mecha-
nisms as part of machines when they are designed and operated
through the outputs from all those other engineering aspects.
MMS is the wide area of disciplines in mechanical engineering
Open Access
that address attention to technological developments and engi-
neering problems that are related to mechanical systems both in
their theories and applications. A clear definition of MMS is
given by IFToMM, the International Federation for the Promo-
tion of MMS ( as (Ionescu, 2003): “Branch
of science, which deals with the theory and practice of the ge-
ometry, motion, dynamics and control of: machines, mecha-
nisms and mechanism elements and systems thereof, together
with their application in industry and other contexts, in biome-
chanics and the environment. Related processes, such as the
conversion and transfer of energy and information, also pertain
to this field”.
Scholars and professionals working in MMS are devoted at
several levels to the many aspects that are aimed at the in-
novation and application of machinery in all the fields of Tech-
nology and Science. In general, machines and mechanisms are
identified with their scope of transmitting or elaborating energy
into motion application for the purpose of a task. Thus, interest
on historical evolution of MMS can be recognized for modern
developments and trends in the mechanical aspects of func-
tioning of any system. But today for an optimized functioning
other aspects than mechanical ones are also considered funda-
mental for machine components, such as from electric, elec-
tronic, and software fields by leading to the modern concept of
Mechatronics. Thus, even disciplines from other engineering
areas are now involved in MMS activities with a vision of inte-
gration of systems of different nature. Therefore, the character
of science for MMS is recognized as an evolution from TMM
(Theory of Machines and Mechanisms) not only for the theo-
retical wide backgrounds that involve even other sciences like
for example Physics and Mathematics, but even for the purpose
of understanding those multi-disciplinary mechatronic systems
that are the today machines. Within this science view of MMS
it is considered fundamental also the knowledge and under-
standing in historical evolutions of machines and their theoreti-
cal backgrounds.
The communities working on MMS are aggregated in socie-
ties at local, national, and international levels even with differ-
ent focuses both within academic and professional frames. In
particular, the MMS community can be well characterized by
indicating the main international bodies that are also linked to
those national and local entities. They are IFToMM and ASME,
American Society of Mechanical Engineering. Within their
activities, through many divisions and committees on specific
technical fields, they carry out activities for advanced formation,
coordination of international research activities, editorial plans,
and conference organizations to facilitate the circulation of
achievements and discussion of novel problems. Other forum of
discussion and achievement presentation for MMS areas are the
several journals that are published at national and international
frames as linked to those engineering societies or international
The History of MMS is addressed with a wide activity within
the above-mentioned technical frames, but with the peculiar
character of being attached to engineers’ interest with engi-
neering approaches mainly for understanding and future devel-
opments of past achievements. It is worth to mention the
IFToMM Permanent Commission for History of MMS and
ASME Committee for History and Heritage in Mechanical
Engineering. With their activity they promote a consideration
of the past in MMS mainly for technical scholars and profes-
sionals. Nevertheless, efforts are attempted to direct those ac-
tivities also to a large public, like for example with a IFToMM
book series on history of MMS see and an ASME inventory
of Landmarks (ASME, 1996).
History of MMS for Cultural Heritage
In Figure 1 summary of main aspects that can contribute to
an evaluation of a product in History of MMS as Cultural Heri-
tage good is represented by stressing the multidisciplinary of
such an evaluation with the above-mentioned considerations.
The scheme has not the aim to be exhaustive and indeed a
complementary view is needed as contributed by historians of
Cultural Heritage. The concept and corresponding list of nec-
essary ste ps in Figure 1 are indicated to stress that the achieve-
ments in MMS can be treated as any other products of Cultural
Heritage in Technology. Thus, this overview is thought con-
venient to show the feasibility of such a consideration and not
to propose new procedures.
Evaluation and identification of a mechanism design for
Cultural Heritage with characters in Figure 1 can be outlined
similarly to traditional Cultural Heritage procedures with the
following steps:
get general information, as a first screening activity of mat-
ter of interest in multidisciplinary contexts
search for original documents and source of information, as
regarding an investigation of historical sources with mul-
tidisciplinary views
validate the documents and sources by means of a histo-
riographical work, even with help of historians
analyze the document for technical soundness as related to
its time
understand the technical influence and effects on technical
developments of the time and subsequent periods
consider the social impact in society developments
evaluate other aspects for quoting the document as valuable
as product of Cultural Heritage with fruition for a large
submit the document interpretation to the community for
validating the value as product of Cultural Heritage.
The above procedure summarizes a complex activity that will
require a multidisciplinary approach with cooperation of ex-
perts also in areas other than in Cultural Heritage. An existing
approach can be considered that one that has brought and brings
pieces of technical achievements in terms of built machines and
textbooks in Science museums. But most of the time those ex-
hibitions are aimed only at surprising visitors with past solu-
tions, which have some modern appearance or content. Signifi-
Figure 1.
Main aspects for evaluating mechanism de-
signs as products for cultural heritage.
Open Access 177
cant examples with aspects for large public fruition can be in-
dicated in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, British
Museum in London, and Science Museum in Milan. The fails
of MMS exhibits in the cited museums can be understood in the
fact that those exhibits show just some products but they do not
give the possibility to have an overview of their MMS charac-
ters with even the corresponding theoretical backgrounds. A
complete fruition of a mechanism design as product for Cul-
tural Heritage will require a more wide understanding and ex-
planation both in a mechanical design and theoretical aspects.
Since a preliminary stage of such awareness it would be con-
venient to convince technical experts and historians that even
mechanism designs both in constructions and procedures, are
worth full to be considered as product for Cultural Heritage in a
broad sense and not only as a show of the past expertise.
Attempts in direction of building collections of mechanism
designs are experienced in a recent past, but mainly in the form
of products (models, books, machine scaled reconstructions) for
museum exhibitions or just in archives but with a limited access
to a large public. Significant examples can be indicated in the
mechanism collections in Bauman Technical University in
Moscow (Russia), Cornell University in Cornell (USA), Dres-
den Technical University (Germany), and Turin Technical
University (Italy), just to cite few significant ones. The cited
University collections are not available to a general public and
they are mainly focused on technical issues. A very recent fo-
cused plan towards Cultural Heritage of mechanism designs can
be considered in the European project “Thinkmotion” (7FP EU
project: CIP-ICT-PSP.2009.2.3 for years 2010-2013), whose
aim is to make the History of MMS available to a large public
by means of a digital library through the Europeana webpage of
the European Community.
A Short Outline of MMS Developments
Over the time changes of needs and task requirements in So-
ciety and Technology have required continuous evolution of
mechanisms (the term is used as mechanical system) and their
uses, with or without a rational technical consciousness. In past
evolution, technical knowledge has made possible to propose
more and more solutions enhancing mechanisms and their uses
in order to satisfy demands with updated aspects for Technol-
ogy and Society.
Mechanisms and machines have addressed attention since the
beginning of Engineering Technology and they have been
studied and designed with successful activity and specific re-
sults. But TMM (Theory of Machines and Mechanisms) has
reached a maturity as independent discipline only in the 19-th
century. Today we refer to TMM as MMS because of a more
wide engineering area of interest and application of mechanism
The historical developments of mechanisms and machines
can be divided into periods with specific technical develop-
ments that, according to author’s personal opinion, can be iden-
tified and characterized by referring to significant starting
events such as:
Utensils in Prehistory;
Antiquity: 5-th cent. B.C. (Mechanos in Greek theatre
Middle Ages: 275 (sack of the School of Alexandria and
destroy of Library and Academy);
Early design of machines: 1420 (the book Zibaldone with
designs by Filippo Brunelleschi);
Early discipline of mechanisms: 1577 (the book Mechani-
corum Liber by Guidobaldo Del Monte);
Early Kinematics of mechanisms: 1706 (the book Traitè des
Roulettes by Philippe De La Hire);
Beginning of TMM: 1794 (Foundation of Ecole Polytech-
Golden Age of TMM: 1841 (the book Principles of Mecha-
nism by Robert Willis);
World War Period: 1917 (the book Getriebelehre by Martin
Modern TMM: 1959 (the journal paper Synthesis of
Mechanisms by means of a Programmable Digital Com-
puter by Ferdinand Freudenstein and Gabor N. Sandor);
MMS Age: 2000 (re-denomination of TMM by IFToMM);
The historical evolution to the current MMS can be shortly
outlined by looking at developments that occurred since the
Renaissance. Mechanisms and machines were used and de-
signed as means to achieve and improve solutions in other
fields. Specific fields of mechanisms grew in results and aware-
ness so that first personalities were recognized as brilliant ex-
perts, like for example Francesco Di Giorgio Martini and Leo-
nardo Da Vinci among many others, as emphasized in (Cec-
carelli, 2008). At the end of Renaissance Mechanics of Machin-
ery addressed a great attention also in Academic world, starting
from the first classes given by Galileo Galilei in 1593-98 (Cec-
carelli, 2006). The designer figure evolved to a professional
status with strong theoretical bases finalizing a long process
only in 18-th century. In Renaissance prominent was the activ-
ity of closed small communities of pupils/co-workers after
“maestros” and “maestros” (Ceccarelli, 2001, 2008). Academic
activity increased basic knowledge for rational design and op-
eration of mechanisms. First mathematizations were attempted
and fundamentals on mechanism kinematics were proposed by
first investigators, who were specifically dedicated to mecha-
nism issues, like for example Philippe De la Hire among many
others. The successful practice of mechanisms was fundamental
for relevant developments in Industrial Revolution during
which many practitioners and researchers implemented the
evolving theoretical knowledge in practical applications and
new powered machines. The 19-t h century can be consi de re d t he
Golden Age of TMM since relevant novelties were proposed
both in theoretical and practical fields. Mechanisms were the
core of any machinery and any technological advance. A com-
munity of professionals was identified and specific academic
formation was established worldwide. TMM gained an impor-
tant role in the development of Technology and Society. Sev-
eral personalities expressed the fecundity of the field with their
activity, like for example Franz Reuleaux among many others.
The first half of 20-th century saw the prominence of TMM in
mechanical (industrial) engineering but with more and more
integration with other technologies. A great evolution was ex-
perienced when with the advent of Electronics, it was possible
to handle contemporaneously several motors in multi-d.o.f.
applications of mechanisms and to operate 3D tasks with spatial
mechanisms. The increase of performance (not only in terms of
speed and accuracy) required more sophisticated and accurate
calculations that have been possible with the advent of Infor-
matics means (computers and programming strategies). Tech-
nically, MMS can be seen as an evolution of TMM as having a
broad content and view of a Science, including new disciplines,
even with multidiscipline contents.
Open Access
Systems, inventions, theories, algorithms, applications and
general technical events are part of this evolution that can be
considered forming Cultural Heritage of MMS developments.
Those achievements have been developed by a community and
in particular by individuals, whose efforts and activities are also
interesting and indeed worth full of consideration for Cultural
Heritage value, as pointed out with technical emphasis in the
book series, and particularly in its Volumes 1 and 7, in which
biographical notes are combined with memories and modern
interpretation of those achievements.
Examples of Theories and Algorithms
Intangible goods for a Cultural Heritage of MMS can be
considered intellectual activities and results such as for example
theories, algorithms for analysis and synthesis, formulation of
design criteria and performance indices, machine operation
strategies, modeling of structures, kinematic concepts.
Although the above intangible products can be stored in pub-
lications that can be themselves tangible goods, those products
of MMS achievements in terms of acquired knowledge require
specific attention for preservation both in understanding and
interpreting original value for the future, also for a suitable
fruition by a large public.
In the following, few examples of those MMS heritage pro-
ducts are reported with a short discussion both to show samples
from different historical periods and to illustrate peculiarities of
their evaluations as well as their values for Cultural Heritage
with the above-mentioned aspects.
In Figure 2 a page of handwritten treatise by Francesco di
Giorgio in (Galluzzi, 1991) is shown as a record of an early
classification of machines referring to pumping systems. Like-
wise the case of disk records of songs, the product itself is a
piece of Cultural Heritage (as in fact it is considered as a very
valuable document in a science museum). But its great value
for Cultural Heritage can be better recognized in the conceptual
achievement of considering different mechanical designs of
machines as referring to a unique topology, even with a very
early concept of kinematic inversion (as in the middle right
figure) in which an inverted crank-slider mechanism can be
identified. This is an example of early theoretical works that
can be appreciated without formulation but with relevant MMS
achievements that deserve preservation and consideration in
future generations.
Figure 3 shows schemes by Guidobaldo Del Monte in his
book (Del Monte, 1577) as very early kinematic models to
study the motion capability of basic machines. They can be
considered fundamental in tracking the historical evolution of
abstraction of machine structures and operation that has a fun-
damental role in computational engineering both for design and
operation of systems.
Another example is the notation proposed by Charles Bab-
bage in 1826 for mechanism catalogue (Babbage, 1826). This
notation was not considered efficient in his time and it was very
quickly forgotten. But the attempt is well recorded and even
mentioned in other proposals for a language of mechanism
catalogue (Ceccarelli, 2000). This can motivate the need of
preservation of its formulation and logics as an intermediary
step of the evolution to a successful modelling that is used to-
day. There are many of those classifications that are based on
logics and rules that can be understood as intangible products
that deserve to be preserved in their original state, although
Figure 2.
Hand written manual for pumping systems by Francesco Di Giorgio
Figure 3.
Schemes of basic elementary machines/mechanisms as studied by Gui-
dobaldo Del Monte in 1577.
nowadays they are not anymore used. This is a specific chapter
of the history of MMS and its consideration will require spe-
cific attention and new evaluation as concerning a value for
Cultural Heritage.
An example is illustrated in Figure 4, (Allievi, 1895), in
which planar mechanisms are classified by using theoretical
properties in tracing special loci in coupler curves as defined
and understood by using kinematic properties and formulation.
In such an evaluation significant are not only kinematic con-
cepts but even aspects of mathematics and mechanical engi-
neering at the same time. It is a heritage product since it is even
representative of a reasoning that was under development at the
Open Access 179
Figure 4.
A classification of coupler curves by Lorenzo Allievi published in
end of 19-th century.
Similarly, in modern time it is significant the encyclopaedic
classification by Artobolevski (1975-1980), also for the social
implication and general influence in more large area than only
research and mechanical engineering. In this case the work can
be understood as a tool for facilitating the understanding of
machines and mechanisms even to a public with only basic
knowledge on mechanisms since the classification is worked
out with an illustration-based approach. The rich approach and
the exhaustive collection can be considered itself a masterpiece
for preservation of mechanisms in current practice, but in the
history of mechanism design.
Figure 5 is an example that even very modern achievements
of theories and algorithms can be considered suitable for pres-
ervation. This is the case of the modeling and formulation in
terms of a mathematics-oriented output for development of
expert systems as applied to mechanism design in (Tsai, 2001).
Other examples of theories and algorithms that deserve con-
sideration as products for Cultural Heritage can be considered
the graphical techniques that the advent of Informatics and
computer calculations have made obsolete, although they are
still of great interest from conceptual viewpoints. Those tech-
niques are outlined and indeed stored in several publications
during the 19-th century but a unique frame is not yet available
and indeed sometimes differences are given from one author to
Figure 5.
A mathematization of mechanism models by using
graphs by Tsai L.W. in 2001.
Other theories can be considered as those that brought to
modern mathematizations and computer-oriented algorithms,
whose background is often underestimated, like for example
first developments of Screw Theory or algebraic approaches for
mechanism analysis and synthesis. Emblematic is the case of
the deduction of the sixth order formula for the coupler curve of
a four-bar linkage that in modern texts is not even mentioned.
Another past algorithm with modern yet interest is the analysis
procedure through vector polygons, that was developed in 19-th
The above examples can give both samples of what could be
considered intangible products of Cultural Heritage from MMS
achievements but also they show the problems and peculiarities
for identifying them and indeed what and how preserving their
heritage values. The abstraction and even formulation behind
and after acquired knowledge are what can be considered valu-
able aspects for Cultural Heritage. But they are complex and
difficult to store with those contents of Cultural Heritage that
are so far considered for the traditional heritage from mankind
developments, mainly with aspects for fruition by large public
that makes significant a preservation.
Main difficulty with preservation of theories and algorithms
can be understood in providing suitable fruition frames for a
large public so that they can fully understand and appreciate
such heritage products. Up to now only expert historians with a
significant technical background can fully appreciate and in-
deed use those past algorithms and procedures so that easily
they are lost.
Examples of Inventions and Mechanisms
Similarly but with somehow more easy understanding it is
possible to indicate and identify examples of tangible products
of MMS that can be considered for Cultural Heritage. They are
systems with their designs and operations whose remains can
have a direct interpretation of historical value and significance
in society developments with a fairly easy understanding.
Thus, prototypes of successful past machines, even from a
recent past like those in Figure 6 can be successfully identified
as goods that indicate developments of the MMS both in terms
Open Access
Figure 6.
Examples of system prototypes valuable as products of
Cultural Heritage from robotics: (a) An early prototype
of Stanford arm as stored for archiving purposes at the
all of Compute Science School in Stanford University
(USA); (b) Early robots from 1970’ to 1980’ at a show
corner in Waseda University in Tokyo (Japan).
of knowledge and enhancement of quality of life. For example,
the History of Robotics with a wide understanding, as indicated
for example in (Ceccarelli, 2001), is full of products that have
been naturally preserved by users and appreciated in general by
a large public so that they are still sources of considerations
for history, preservation, but also for further developments and
thinking in mankind enhancements. The prototypes in Figure 6
are fundamental achievements in mechanism designs for robots
and they have been preserved since the beginning of Robotics
as a memory of the efforts in developing them but also to show
those achievements to a large public (indeed engineering stu-
dents) with a first approach of Cultural Heritage in engineering
fields. Those examples are indicative that mainly in techno-
logical and engineering achievements the past is not strongly
related to the time and valuable past achievements can be rec-
ognized in their historical value when they have stimulated
changes and improvements in mankind developments, as today
we experience with accelerated rapidity. However, the exam-
ples in Figure 6 are much more than only pieces of products,
since they are the results of knowledge achievements with con-
ceptual contents as well.
But not only big achievements with impressive shows are
worth full of preservation in Cultural Heritage of MMS. In fact,
even those achievements that have contributed, even considera-
bly, but with a slow but incisive influence on the progress are
worth full to be considered. Emblematic examples are the ma-
chines and mechanisms that have been developed during the
Renaissance to give new impulse to society development. They
are already recognized of historical value but not in a full sense
of Cultural Heritage since most of the time they are preserved
for showing just the past skills in engineering and technology.
In Figures 7 to 11 examples of different machines from differ-
ent periods are illustrated as from such exhibitions with no
other goals. In Figure 7(a) the machine significance is even
reproduced in an architectonic decoration of an important build-
ing of the time. In Figure 7(b) a wheelchair mechanism is
shown as a complementary furniture of a aristocratic palace.
This is a case in which a mechanism design has been funda-
mental for the quality of life but somehow not recognized as a
technical achievements, likewise only in the last decades new
medical devices are considered of priority interest since the
growth of elder population.
In Figure 8 examples are shown in terms of vehicles that are
stored as decoration both in technical environments of Univer-
Figure 7.
Exhibitions in palace museums: (a) A 16-th
cent. basso-relief as decoration of Urbino
Palace celeb rating ma chine design with gea rs;
(b) A 19-th cent. Wheelchair with suspen-
sion mechanisms and steering back wheel at
Chigi Palace in Ariccia (Rome).
Open Access 181
Figure 8. f machines of the past: (a) A steam machine for road con- Exhibition o
struction in the campus of school of engineering in Las Palmas (Spain);
(b) Steam powered locomotive from late 19-the century in a garden
square in Brescia (Italy) with details of the force transmitting Stephen-
son mechanism.
(a) (b)
Figure 9. uction plant preserved as Science Museums in Mexico: (a)
ities and also in city frames. Sometimes, like the case in Fig-
A iron prod
overall view of the structures; (b) a show of a mechanism for a large
ure 8(b) some emphasis, even through colored repainting, is
Figure 10. t of 1910’s as art museum in Rome.
A power plan
Figure 11. n of a collection of ancient Chinese lock mechanisms at
iven to the past complex mechanisms that were used in those
An exhibitio
Tainan University (Taiwan).
vehicles. It is also remarkable that the size of machinery is not
Open Access
today a limitation in such a preservation, as it is the case in
Figure 9 where a successful attempt of a Cultural Heritage
preservation is achieved by using a large industrial plant as a
museum that is dedicated to the corresponding technology in
order to illustrate also the social life during its working times.
The potentiality of industrial plants for Cultural Heritage sites
can be also demonstrated by the cases in which they are used as
museum frames not only for the specific technical areas they
represent, but even as stimulating space for museum exhibition
of arts, like for example the case in Rome where a plant of the
1910’s with diesel engines for energy production is used to host
exhibition of Roman sculptures, Figure 10.
In Figure 11 a museum room is shown as specifically dedi-
hanism designs is also appreciated
Cultural Heritage hatify and preserve sig-
ted to preservation of lock mechanisms within a frame illus-
trating historical evolution and variety of solutions. This show
room is a very peculiar case since it has been established thanks
to the interest and efforts of Prof. Hong-Sen Yan, but mainly as
due to his curiosity and passion in those specific mechanisms of
the past. Several other collections of mechanism designs exist
with a similar motivation and they are indeed hidden either in
University frames with reduced availability for a public fruition
or in museum frames with limited estimation and explanation
of influence in the cultural development of the society. An ex-
ample of such university collections is illustrated in Figure 12
in which wood models of mechanisms that were used for
teaching purposes, are now just stored with no possibility of
understanding and fruition.
Significance of past mec
hen reconstructions are proposed in order to fully study the
design and operation of the achievements. In some cases recon-
structions are even shown with the aim to make understandable
the functioning of the past mechanism designs to a wide public,
as in the examples of Figure 13. Those reconstructions can be
still considered products of Cultural Heritage since they pre-
serve and make available past machinery that had influence in
the society evolution. However, for a full heritage evaluation,
preservation should include also a procedure on how they have
been originally designed and even the technology and process
that made possible their operation at the time of their success.
s the aim to iden
ficant achievements of humanity developments in durable
Figure 12. anism models from early 1950’ at the school of Engineer- Wood mech
ing of La Sapienza University of Rome (Italy).
Figure 13. construction of past mechanisms: (a) a module of Babbage
cords and memories that can be useful to future generations,
Allievi, L. (1895). C piana. Napoli: Regia
Ar odern Engineering (Vol. 5).
Aeritage (1997) Landmarks in Mechanical
Bthe action of
A modern re
mechanical calculator at Science museum Elder in Las Palmas (Sp ain);
(b) a functioning reconstruction of ancient Chinese wind mill at a Tai-
wan University in 2008.
not depending on the fashion of the time. This paper is an at-
tempt to present achievements from Mechanism and Machine
Science, both in physical products and intangible knowledge, as
worth fully being considered elements of Cultural Heritage for
a wide public that can recognize ultimately the significance and
contribution of MMS in humanity developments. The proposed
examples are chosen to show both the wide range of time and
place, and the variety of achievements in MMS as products of
Cultural Heritage value. Each of these examples will need in-
deed a specific study and consequent evaluation as relevant
product of Cultural Heritage. The purposes of those examples
are also to show a continuity of those MMS achievements both
in time and contents during the MMS history.
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