The Steam Museum in Kew is wonderfully surreal.
It’s a movie set; it’s a place out of time. It’s something from an episode of Sapphire and Steel. It’s huge and echoing and slightly creepy and absolutely compelling.
I completely fell in love with it.
It’s a timewarp – it’s a huge hall of incredible machinery, all kept flawlessly running by knowledgeable codgers who love these machines as if they were children. Interspersed with their smoothly oiled running are pieces of period costume, are isolated figures of history and heroism…and goldfish, tiny flashes of colour amid the shining grey.
There are toys and activities for children – in one place, there’s a table of brand new craft products and an interactive wall that could have come straight from best-funded end of the Science Museum; in another, there’s an ancient wooden play-railway and aged boxes of grubby pencil-stubs.
The Museum is a touching tale of its own history, as well as the history of the Thames that’s on display.
The Steampunk Exhibition itself is fantastic – topical Science Fiction iconography from Star Wars and Doctor Who all now wrought with brass and goggles… it’s beautiful, all finely crafted and as a hot a media mash-up as you like…
And yet there’s no-one there to see it.
The emptiness of the place affected me more than anything else – the Steam Museum is a place of love and wonder and discovery and yet it seems that time has passed it by. Please don’t you.
The Steampunk Exhibition is open until August 29th. And well worth it!