Da Vinci codex boosts museum

? A computer-based, interactive exhibit featuring virtual versions of Leonardo da Vinci’s works helped Exploration Place post a profit during its two-month run, museum officials said.

The “Virtual Codex Atlanticus” cost $255,460 to bring in from Italy and put on display, counting advertising and related costs. The museum brought in $338,000 over its run, which ended Aug. 26.

Other exhibits brought in more: “Titanic” made more than $200,000, and “A T. Rex Named Sue” generated a profit of $100,000.

Still, Exploration Place officials weren’t complaining.

“We intended to bring to Wichita not only a higher-quality international exhibit, but one that shows where exhibits are going in the future,” said Alberto Meloni, the museum’s president. “These types of exhibits are a step toward the future, which is virtual reality.”

One drawback, another official said, was that Wichita was the first U.S. city to host the da Vinci exhibit.

“It didn’t come with that built-in word-of-mouth” said Vera Bothner, chairwoman of the museum’s board of trustees. “With ‘Titanic,’ you know what it is. You’ve heard about it or even seen it someplace else.

“Leonardo is an exhibit that people don’t know about,” Bothner said. “It’s not typical. … So it takes a while for that word to really get out.”

One young visitor, Meloni said, went through the exhibit repeatedly – sometimes spending hours at the computer screens. “I told my staff at the time, ‘That boy right there is why we do this,”‘ Meloni said. “If we can touch and inspire just one person, that’s enough for me.”