Steampunk (10 December 2011 – 6 May 2012) follows on from the success of Steampunk at the Museum of the History of Science (MHS) in Oxford, and the Greatest Steampunk Exhibition at Kew Bridge Steam Museum (KBSM, now London Museum of Water & Steam). Bradford has an exhibition that is a worthy successor. Put together by Wesley Perriman, the exhibition not only draws on the museum collections as influences, but includes dresses, artwork and guns, books, photographs, mobile cabinets of curiosity and the 3D Steampunk silent film, Clockwork, for which you could borrow 3D glasses to view.
The exhibition also places collection items and Steampunk material culture together in the gallery and in the showcases. While there may be concern that this juxtaposition, especially as all the labels were of the same style, could be confusing for visitors – what is ‘real’ and what is ‘Steampunk’ – I felt that this blending of objects and influences worked extremely well. With the other two exhibitions mentioned above, the links to science, steam and mechanical objects were there, but the blending was missing. At the MHS, the Steampunk objects had their own gallery that, though it was at the heart of the museum with other collection galleries around it, could be seen as a little isolated. At KBSM, the Steampunk objects were placed in and around the beam engines, but the influences were not so apparent. Bradford overcame this by juxtaposing Victorian dresses next to Steampunk dresses and a blunderbuss next to a sonic gun. This was a strongly curated exhibition that gave Steampunk a real sense of identity and placed it within a known history, while at the same time demonstrating that it was an alternative world with its own clothes, material culture, thoughts, ideas and values.