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Bucharest, Romania

Dimitrie Leonida Technical Museum

Check out engineering marvels of the past at this unintentionally retrofuturist museum. 

Founded in 1909, the Dimitrie Leonida Technical Museum was built to showcase exciting new developments in a variety of applied sciences. A century, however, is an eternity in the world of technology, so today the museum is less a carnival of scientific wonders and more a science history museum, as well as a fascinating look at the bleeding edge of technology in the first half of the 20th century.

Dimitrie Leonida was a Romanian engineer who founded the country’s first electrical and mechanical engineering school in 1908, and relied on help from the school’s staff and faculty to open the Technical Museum one year later. The museum covers a wide range of topics related to engineering and the physical sciences, including 1960s nuclear power plant technology, gamma spectrometers, horse-powered oil extraction techniques, magnetic and electrical fields, chemistry, mining, telecommunications, and hydraulics. Reflecting some of the main engineering efforts of the 20th century, the museum features lots of different motorized carriages, motorbikes, and all kinds of crazy cars, from beefy antique German race cars to wacky Eastern Bloc vehicles to fabulous concept cars that never saw mass production.

The Technical Museum was built in the last remaining pavilion of the 1906 Great Romanian Exhibition, which sought to highlight all that the country had to offer the world. Whether intentionally or not, the museum has partially carried on that mandate, exhibiting the work of some of Romania’s outstanding engineers.

There are models of the flying vehicles designed by aviation pioneers Traian Vuia and Henri Coandă — the latter of whom built what was arguably the world’s first jet airplane in 1910. For an even more science-fictiony vibe, check out the jetpack that was built by Justin Capra and Ion Munteanu in 1958. The museum also contains a oddly-shaped car made in 1922 by Aurel Persu and designed to mimic the aerodynamic efficiency of a falling raindrop. In this he was quite successful, as his car boasts a staggeringly low drag coefficient, still beating almost every modern car in production.

The Dimitrie Leonida Technical Museum boasts over 5000 exhibits and features some interactive displays that reflect the original educational vision of both the institution and the man who created it.