For the uninitiated, steampunk is a branch of science fiction/fantasy that imagines an alternative industrial future that diverged from our past somewhere in the Victorian era, at the height of steam-powered technology. In this retro-future, cogs and gears power aether machines and zeppelin is the preferred method of air travel.
Perhaps the single best place to experience the imagined steampunk world is in the small coastal town of Oamaru, New Zealand. Oamaru boomed economically during the 1800s, and so its buildings serve as the perfect setting for a steampunk playground with bountiful neoclassical and Victorian-style architecture. It’s here you’ll find Steampunk HQ, located in an 1883 grain elevator.
It’s hard to say exactly what the headquarters are. The massive warehouse contains exhibits that are equal parts art show and haunted house–style walkthrough. A locomotive and an old blimp act as Steampunk HQ signs outside the building. One exhibition, called “The Portal,” introduces visitors to time-and-space travelers and their copper, pipe-laden vehicles. A piece of equipment called the “Metagalactic Pipe Organ” allows people to play extraterrestrial sounds picked up by the HQ officers on their time jumps.
There are also short films played at Steampunk HQ, as well as events and parties. Next door is the Libratory, an extension of Steampunk HQ. It’s a library and art gallery dedicated to the history of steampunk, where artists show their wares and model their designs. Not only does it connect past and present, but it connects the whole Oamaru community. It’s become an entire steampunk town.
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