Steampunk HQ, Ōamaru. © David Wall

Steampunk HQ, Ōamaru


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‘Steampunk is a quirky genre of science fiction that features steam-powered technology’ – according to Steampunk HQ in Ōamaru. 

In this parallel world, the digital age of transistors and computers never happened and time marched with steam-powered machines and their noisy moving parts; clumsy by modern standards, but fascinating.  

Machines from the writings of H.G Wells and Jules Verne continue to inspire some of steampunk’s contemporary artists. 

Ōamaru’s Steampunk Museum, based in one of the town’s historic whitestone buildings, is home to the local League of Victorian Imagineers who have created exhibitions characterised by rusting iron, cogs, chains, bolts, cylinders and flickering cathode ray screens. 

On the front courtyard, a full-size railway engine rears like a bucking horse. The building’s external adornments provide clues to the museum’s strange and sometimes macabre contents. Sculptured insects on its walls cluster as if on carrion and a metal figure perches on the roof dangling from a hook. 

Just inside the entrance, the plush seat of a pipe organ invites the curious to sit awhile and tickle the ivories. The organ produces an eclectic range of sounds from throbbing bass rhythms and a cuckoo clock to someone chanting ‘all aboard the Jolly Roger.’

Nearby, a stairwell for the adventurous descends to a cellar once used for granary storage; the less adventurous can peer into the cellar through a floor window. 

A descriptive panel provides insight for the uninitiated: ‘A curious shop unearthed in the Cerberus quadrant of Ursa Major…’ Standing on the deck of his ship, a ghoulish skipper grips a tiller ringed with metal spear tips. A stern-mounted fan powers the craft. 

The mirror room is a more recent addition. Behind a solid door, reflected light and gentle music contribute to a fairy tale experience… and relief from the darker themes of the museum. 

 

Story by Steuart Lang 

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