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Ryan Spellman, of Airship Athena, poses for a portrait on Aug. 29, 2014 at Final Fridays on the Square in Nelsonville. Spellman's steampunk style goggles are made to match his lack of vision in his left eye. (FILE)

Steampunk exhibit to be showcased at Alden Library throughout the semester

Alden Library plans to start the school year by giving students some spectacle and mystery.

On Monday, the library will open “Steampunk: Exploring the Roots of an Aesthetic,” an exhibit which will be showcased on the fifth floor until Dec. 15. The showing will display items from books which illustrate some of the literary, scientific and social components that have inspired the steampunk movement.

Futuristic novels by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, along with 1950s science-fiction periodicals will be showcased. Clothing advertisements, 19th century installment publications, such as the books of Charles Dickens, and scientific illustrations featuring metal and iron work will also be displayed.

Ryan Spellman, the library support specialist at Alden, said the exact definition of steampunk varies among people.

“Steampunk is so broad that depending on who you talk to you will get a different opinion on what it is all about,” Spellman said. “Some people are just strictly into the costuming while some are more into the history of it.”

Spellman, who is a member of Airship Athena, a local steampunk group, also said in an email steampunk is a retro-futuristic aesthetic focusing on how Victorian-era people viewed the future by analyzing steam engines, corsets, top hats and “techno-fantasy.”

Becca Lachman, the communications officer at Athens County Libraries, said in an email Athens libraries and Airship Athena have worked hard to promote the Steampunk ideology in Southeast Ohio.

“The Steampunk Spectacle attracts all ages and people from inside and outside the county,” Lachman said. “We go all-out on posters, brochures and save-the-date postcards”

A variety of steampunk-themed events will also be held in Southeastern Ohio during September. “Spectacular! Spectacular! Steampunk Art Opening” presented by ARTS/West will take place on Sept. 9, the Steampunk Train Ride will be held in Nelsonville on Sept. 17, and the Annual Steampunk Ball on Sept. 24.

Miriam Intrator, the special collections librarian at Alden, said steampunk allows for the library to collaborate with Athens residents.

“It’s important to work with the community as much as possible,” Intrator said. “Having an exhibit like this makes sense to me because it persuades larger groups of people to come look at these materials.”

Spellman said this exhibit distinguishes itself by bringing material to life that is typically sheltered behind computer screens, since the aesthetic is usually only viewed digitally.

“The steampunk community is very excited to see this exhibit, which aims to pull the Victorian era into modern day,” he said. “What’s interesting about this exhibit is that there are so many authentic items and images we’re used to seeing from Victorian era will be viewable up close in person.”

Inrator said this event is a big step in allowing Alden library to be more connected to the public by attracting people in Athens County and beyond who normally don’t come to the library.

“We will be able to attract a new and expanded audience since people come from well beyond Athens for this event,” she said. “We are always looking to draw new members and this will be a fun opportunity to do that.”


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