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Steampunk Sparks Discovery at Science Museum of Virginia

The Science Museum is taking guests on a fantastical hands-on adventure with “Discover Steampunk”.

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How did thinkers and writers of the late 1800s envision the future? Virginians will soon find out in “Discover Steampunk,” a new touring exhibition debuting this weekend at the Science Museum of Virginia.

Opening February 10, “Discover Steampunk,” produced by Imagine Exhibitions, features stories of 19th-century visionaries who dreamed of what life would be like for us today. Through more than 20 interactive exhibits, the exhibition invites guests to learn about electricity with Mary Shelley, deep ocean exploration with Jules Verne, the dawn of photography with George Eastman, household appliances with Isaac Singer and time travel with H. G. Wells.

“Imagine Exhibitions has done an incredible job of blending science, art and history in this exhibition,” said Timshel Purdum, Virginia C. Ellett Deputy Director for Education. “Guests will appreciate the Victorian-inspired aesthetic plus the hands-on elements that showcase the important concepts of collaboration and creativity.”

Image Credit: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Steampunk is a movement inspired by the Victorian ideals of industry and steam power. Often featuring retrofuturistic inventions, it has become a form of artistic expression and an educational tool that teaches ingenuity and self-reliance.

“Discover Steampunk” features sculptures by Bruce Rosenbaum, dubbed the Steampunk Guru by the Wall Street Journal. The repurposed, kinetic art is modeled after the work of famous historical figures. The exhibition also features intricate machines that appear to have come out of the past, which offer both interactivity and excitement while teaching about science, technology, engineering and math in unique ways.

Image Credit: Jan Matzeliger

Tom Zaller, President and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions, said of the exhibition, “The steampunk movement contains so many concepts that are vital for young people to learn: engineering, artistry, innovation and collaboration to name a few. I am proud of the Imagine Exhibitions team for putting together such an engaging exhibition that ties these concepts together — using the fun and fanciful steampunk aesthetic as the central theme to inspire guests to think differently about the past, present and future.”

In addition to hosting the touring exhibition, the Science Museum is offering a variety of complementary programming throughout the building this spring. Guests can watch live brain dissection demos, explore electricity with the Van de Graaff generator, see how steam-powered toys operate, create spirograph art with different-size gears, build clocks and use sewing machines in “The Forge” and more.

Image Credit: Virginia Aquarium

Plus, the Science Museum is bringing back the popular adults-only event on March 21. Science on Tap: STEMpunk will have a steampunk theme, special activities and feature lots of original costumes.

“Discover Steampunk” is on display through August 18. It is included with Science Museum admission.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.