IT’S ALIVE! Tour for visually impaired visitors

Michael Start General

This summer the museum plays host to a cast of curious clockwork characters from the House of Automata.

We invite you to join us for a descriptive tour of the exhibition and a hands-on automata performance, tailored to visually impaired visitors.

Come along to experience the magic of mechanical life.

The automata will come to life in the expert hands of Michael and Maria Start, including a tiny feathered bird who sings 170-year-old songs.


11.00am – 12.30pm

Friday 28th July 2017

Places are limited.

Book by email

Museum of Childhood, 42 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TG

Directions to Museum


A short film about The House of Automata

Michael Start General

A short film about The House of Automata by Edinburgh photographer Euan Myles and film maker Jonnie Lewis. IMG_6847 They wanted to capture the magic and appeal of automata in a documentary film set in our North of Scotland workshop.

Click HERE to view the film on vimeo.



Musical Chair Acrobat c.1875

It’s Alive! Exhibition of Automata – Edinburgh

Michael Start General


Musical Chair Acrobat

on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, in a free exhibition from the House of Automata (22 June – 18 September 2017).

It’s Alive! from the House of Automata will provide the first free, interactive and atmospheric display of these incredible examples of craftsmanship in Edinburgh with  special Automata performances throughout July, August & September.

Open from the 22nd of June, this unique collection of mechanical marvels will include an amazing magician in faded silks, who keeps us guessing as he runs through his cups-and-balls routine; a dazzling acrobat based on a famous Moulin Rouge performer; and Heba, a beautiful harpist whose graceful hands strum her long-lost instrument.

Fine automata such as these were made to entertain the fashionable elite of Paris in the late 1800s, and bring together the arts of the clockmaker, sculptor and couturier. ‘It’s Alive!

Automata Performances

Throughout July, August & September visitors will be able to see even more of the machines come to life, as Michael and Maria give demonstrations of the machines in action. These performances are not to be missed. Most Fridays at 2.00pm and Saturdays at 11.30am – check Edinburgh museum website for details.

Automata Exhibition Video

Michael Start General


The Nairn Museum is located in Scotland and has a great Drawing Room. We exhibited there some years ago and doubled their visitor numbers. Nairn Automata PosterIt was a pleasure to repeat the event with some of our reserve collection. The video is at 2X speed for a youtube audience, if you want to see it at actual speed open – settings – view –  .5 speed. The birds will have a deep voice as I reverted to normal speed just for that section!

If you are interested in our Travelling exhibition, contact us and we will do our best to help, we can tailor to suit, we have exhibited in a variety of locations from a Galleries to a Bar, and if conditions are right we can exhibit some crowd pulling, rare and impressive automata that attract publicity easily.



Summer 2016 – Exhibition of Automata

Michael Start General

Exhibition of Automata, ‘Mechanical Wonders’ an interactive and exciting event on show until the 24th September 2016 at The Nairn Museum in Scotland.

Nairn Automata

After a busy and successful summer the exhibition has now finished. Many thanks for the great feedback and capacity audiences for all of the talks and demos accompanying the exhibition.


Phantasmagoria poster

Phantasmagoria Show – August 2016

Admin General

An adventure in projection with many moving and mechanical slides projected in a grand drawing room. The animations date from 1820 and  accompaniment is by epic piano playing, the gramophone, music box and Theremin . This takes place in the Victorian seaside resort of Nairn (favoured by Charlie Chaplin) as part of theNairn Book and Arts Festival. Wednesday 31st August 2016 7pm and 8.30pm.


Phantasmagoria poster

New Website

Michael Start General

The Old Website front pageThe Classic House of Automata website, much loved and rich in content,  has now become a bit of a museum piece.

The new site aims to be less of a cluttered victorian mantelpiece and should be easier to navigate and explore.

Gone is that feeling of ‘falling down a rabbit hole’ and becoming disorientated in a mechanical wonderland  as soon as you click to enter.

Gone is the secretly embedded 18th century mechanical singing bird song composed by Haydn (probably).

On the principle that ‘less is more’ we are going to pack in so much ‘less’ you will wonder how we ever squeezed in ‘more’.

If you still want to explore the classic site it is available here The House of Automata

Many Thanks to Tony Boyce for crafting and maintaining the old site for a decade, and welcome to John Keiller who made the new site.

Your views on the new site are most welcome. Email


AutomataCon – The First

Admin General


Over to America soon and looking forward to participating in this event:

AutomataCon is a convention of and for artists, collectors, historians, and enthusiasts of automatons and related kinetic art. It is a two day event being held March 18th and 19th, 2016 at and in conjunction with the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, home of the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata.

The goal of the convention is to gather people from around the world to share ideas, build relationships, and grow interest in automata new and old. The convention will include a variety of private and public programming, such as social gatherings, museum tours, panel discussions, live demonstrations, workshops, presentations, and an exhibition.

The convention includes the public premier of  “Le Monde des Automates”.
an extremely rare 1928 film, “Le Monde des Automates” [the World of Automata].