This past weekend, my Wife and I finally made it up to the Shelburne Museum, to take in their exhibit Time Machines: Robots, Rockets and Steampunk. It’s something that we’ve been eager to see for a while now, with a couple foiled attempts, but with a week to spare, we finally made it up. If you haven’t taken in this wonderful exhibit, your time is running short: the museum closes for the season this upcoming weekend, with its last day on the 28th.
I haven’t been to the Shelburne Museum since I was really little, and there’s quite a bit that’s changed since I was last there. We started off with a couple of buildings and the Ticonderoga, a massive steam-powered ship that in and of itself could pass for a Steampunk setting.
The Science Fiction exhibit was really fantastic, though. Split into three rooms, the main categories of Steampunk, Robots and Rockets all get equal treatment and do a good job tracing the cultural impact in each one, mainly through the toys that they inspired.
The Steampunk room was probably the most impressive, however, because it hasn’t quite reached the cultural saturation that robots and rockets have. Thus, where those two rooms focused on the toys, this room focused extensively on props and original creations, by a lot of Burlington artists and beyond. A steampunk TARDIS (which seems a little redundant – they were built in the times that Steampunk looks back to!), as well as a reimagination of Boba Fett and Darth Vader. Prop guns line the walls, and a whole host of other items as well.
The Robots room was probably the coolest. Minimally presented, shelves held toy robots from a bygone era – tin windups, toy figures and a couple of real robots – a fighting robot with a video of its triumphs, and more. I was thrilled to go to the museum shop and find that they had some tin robots for sale; I’ve wanted one forever.
Finally, the rockets room had a number of toys depicting spacemen and their ships, but also puzzles and kits from NASA, as well as some really interesting propaganda posters. I thought that this room was a little lacking, but it was still facinating to go through.
Outside the building is a quartet of giant robots, which were really cool to see up close and in person.
We spent the next couple of hours wandering around the rest of the museum, eventually ending up in the Print Shop, which is just as interesting as the SciFi exhibit, with a wide array of printing presses, and with someone on hand to explain the process to visitors, as well as a live demonstration for how one worked. That was perhaps the most informative element of the day, and I learned a bunch of little facts that inform what I do every day: typing. (The cases that held the letters: The capital letters were held in the higher of two cases, while the regular letters were in the lower one. Upper and lower cases!)
Overall, the entire trip was fantastic. If you’ve got a chance to go this week, GO!