What Is Steampunk?

Waltham exhibit showcases Victiorian-themed movement

Steampunk is a movement, for lack of a better word.

“It’s a form of elaborate dress up,” said Pam Phillips, 51, who traveled from Watertown to see the “Steampunk, Form & Function, and an Exhibition of Innovation, Invention and Gadgetry” at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham

The exhibit, sponsored by Steampuffin, opened in October, and runs through May 2011. The highly stylized genre combines Victorian style with modern technology, and continuously brings in people of all ages interested in the many aspects of steampunk, including its reach into art, literature, music, science fiction and fashion.

Curt Hayashi, 66, a Waltham resident and two-year volunteer at the museum said the exhibit is an offspring of the Annual Steampunk Form and Function Design Competition.

“It’s become very popular,” he said.

The pieces, which range from a steampunked iPod to an interpretation of the Professor X chair from the X-Men comics, come together under the name of steampunk, despite the wide range of uses among the collection, from kitchen gadgetry to wall art.

“There is a different kind of beauty to [steampunk],”Phillips said. “There’s beauty in its function.”

Many of the pieces showcased their functionality by encouraging interactivity. One piece combined a modern computer with a Victorian-style typewriter and encouraged museum patrons to test out its function on an open Word document. Another rigged a generator to a bicycle that could be powered by working the pedals by hand.

“There’s some really neat stuff in here,” said Melina Mon, 27, of Arlington, who noted one of her favorite pieces was the Professor X chair and bicycle powered generator. “It’s kind of outrageous.”

Steampunk has been around since the 1980s, but gained popularity in 2008, after MTV aired a documentary on the movement. Since then, steampunk-themed designs have found their way into the mainstream through stores like Hot Topic, Restoration Hardware and Walmart.

The steampunk movement is heavily influenced by literature, especially authors like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley and Mark Twain. The style can also be found in both movies and video games, most notably, the recent Guy Richie interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, as well as role-playing games like Final Fantasy and World of Warcraft.

Kevin Pacheco, 32, of Arlington, heard about the exhibit by word of mouth and says he has always been drawn to the movement and its history. “I love this kind of stuff,” he said.

The “Steampunk, Form & Function, and an Exhibition of Innovation, Invention and Gadgetry” runs through May 10, 2011. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $5 for the general public and $3 for students. 







Sally Collura January 26, 2011 at 12:47 PM
Look for the first annual International Steampunk City Festival in Waltham May 6-8th this year! This event will benefit the Charles River Museum if Industry and Innovation. Events, activities, workshops and more throughout the downtown and the city! More info to follow from the museum and the organizer of this not to be missed event!


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