The drawings were shipped with armed guards, the travel schedule kept secret, in frames equipped with their own precise micro-climates and sensors linked to computers in Italy. Once at their destination – a small museum on a Virginia college campus – more than a thousand students lined up on a cold night for their chance to spend time, up close, with Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings.
“It’s incomparable, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Aaron de Groft, director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary. “They’re 500 years old and produced by one of the greatest artists in history.” He remembered his own experience, as a student, watching a curator take out a Michelangelo drawing and marveling. “How did I get here?” he remembers thinking. “Someone of great genius touched this. … It’s a very humbling experience.”