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For this exhibition we are introducing a visit package compliant with COVID19 regulations to make your visit as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Please read the following carefully and complete our online Booking Enquiry form to secure your preferred visit date.

We realise this is a period of uncertainty for schools and planning visits so please do not hesitate to ask us any questions about your visit to us. We will do our very best to help and accommodate your needs.

Cabaret Mechanical Marvels - EXCLUSIVE schools only mornings

Your school will have exclusive access to the museum 10.00 am - 10:50 am where you can explore this exhibition and our other collections. 

We are able to offer exclusive access to up to one class of 32 children per day. 

Each visitor will be able to take away a free pencil which can be used in the exhibition to press buttons and hand sanitiser will be available near any other touchable interactives. 

This exhibition is perfect for bringing to life mechanical systems using gears, cams, levers and pulleys. It is an opportunity to see how professional automata makers construct things and how different mechanical elements can create different push and pull effects.

About the exhibition

This winter explore the fascinating world of automata with Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and see the tools used to create them in St Albans Museums' own Salaman Tool Collection.

The exhibition will include artworks from the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre collection. These whimsical mechanical artworks illustrate their inner workings at the push of a button or turn of a lever, enabling a greater level of understanding of mechanics, engineering and art. 

These simple but effective interactives demonstrate the basic principles behind cams, drives, linkages, gears, pulleys, ratchets, gears and levers. All these mechanisms underpin and feature in our lives in a multitude of ways on a daily basis. 

The designs also showcase the creativity of their makers from funny scenes to intriguing stories the simple movements bring these sculptures to life.

The Lion Tamer automata by Ron Fuller with a man sticking his had into the lion's open mouth

Exhibition adaptations for Covid-19 

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and St Albans Museums have worked hard together to ensure that visitors will be able to interact with the automata in a safe way. Every visitor will be able to take away a free pencil which can be used in the exhibition to press buttons and hand sanitiser will be available near any other touchable interactives. 

The Salaman Collection

A selection of woodworking tools including planes and callipers

St Albans Museums is home to a large collection of trade tools, brought together by local resident Raphael Salaman and added to the museum’s collection in the 1970s. The collection covers a wide variety of trades and illustrates how important manual craftsmanship once was.

Part of Salaman's wide range of woodworking tools will be displayed in the exhibition including some of the 100+ planes he collected. These show how even a simple tool can be adapted to each specific craftsperson's needs.

We will also have a display of watchmaking tools designed to work on clockwork and gears even smaller than those in the automata on display.

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre

The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre Company (CMT), was formed in 1979 by Sue Jackson, as a small general craft shop, simply called Cabaret, located
in Cornwall, United Kingdom. Collaborating with local artists Cabaret specialised in creating
hand-made automata that were exhibited and sold to the general public.

Due to the company’s huge success it moved its premises to London in 1984, where it soon established an international reputation for the quality and uniqueness of its product. CMT continued to support a growing number of makers, and helped to define automata as a craft genre, encouraging organisations like the Crafts Council of Great Britain to recognise its significance and collect some of its finest examples.