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Photo provided via Todd Bastin

Athens Public Library to enrich minds through steampunk culture

The Athens Public Library, 30 Home St., is calling all steampunk enthusiasts to celebrate the seventh annual Steampunk Spectacle — complete with music, outdoor activities, puppetry and costumes galore.

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that showcases what art, technology and clothing would’ve been like if the Victorian era had never ended. 

This year, the theme of the event is “Journey to the Center of the Earth” based on Jules Vernes’ novel, where he combines scientific fact with fantastical elements about the era when geologists discovered the Earth was much older than expected. 

Todd Bastin, adult programming coordinator for the library, is the head coordinator for Steampunk Spectacle and has been for the previous six years it has taken place.

“I knew about steampunk as a science fiction subgenre, where science fiction writers will write a story about a time where it’s still like the Victorian world but with all kinds of different technologies,” Bastin said. “But I didn’t know there was an actual subculture of people doing these things with their own hands and living that kind of lifestyle.”

Bastin likes steampunk because it involves creativity, science and artistry skills, and he feels those are great for the library. He believes steampunk gets people interested in the activities that come with the subgenre, but will also get people interested in nonfiction and science fiction novels related to steampunk. 

There are a plethora of workshops and shows happening at the event. 

Throughout the day there will be a photo-op backdrop featuring the caverns of the underworld, and though many will show up wearing their own costumes, there will be a workshop for learning how to make props for steampunk attire. Keeping with the theme of making items to wear, there will be a workshop to learn how to make lava rock beaded bracelets. 

Children and families will have the opportunity for a steampunk-themed storytime and craft. After they’re finished with their book and their craft, children and families can make their way over to the Twig Theatre of Puppetry, for a 40-minute performance and a Q&A and meet and greet after the show. 

There will be riddles, science activities, board games and even lawn activities including croquet, badminton, the game of graces and lawn bowls. 

One of the most exciting activities at the event is the Victorian Low Tea Social, where people can dine on gourmet French desserts and drink tea and homemade sarsaparilla. Anyone, in any attire, is welcome to participate. 

In keeping with the low tea social, each year there is a tea cozies silent auction and craft show. The cozies are knitted by the Athens County Knitters, who used the proceeds from the auction last year to buy a tandem bike for the library’s bicycle fleet. 

This year they want to buy another bike with the money from the fundraiser. Each year the Knitters have made well over $1,000 from the auction.

“They got really wild about [cozies], which is what you’re supposed to do with steampunk,” Bastin said. “They made some crazy, really creative and fun, but sometimes simply beautiful, tea cozies like no one has ever imagined doing before.”

Amy Drayer, branch manager of the Athens Public Library, loves watching the silent auction and the entire steampunk event. 

“It’s an unusual event for the area, and I think the library and Todd do a great job of making it unique each year, while still bringing the same things from past years that people have enjoyed,” Drayer said.

Jo Itapson, a freshman studying political science, thinks the Steampunk Spectacle is a great event to connect the past and present while educating minds. 

“Many of the events that libraries host help us by showing us reflections of the past today,” Itapson said. “Steampunk Spectacle is one of these events, helping us correlate our modern ideals of fashion with those from the Victorian era. The importance of events like these cannot be stressed enough, and we are lucky that the library continues to host them.”

Bastin loves to see the costumes, but he also loves to see all of the people come and participate in these cultural activities. The main point of the event, from his perspective, is to enrich the minds of these people while having fun.

“As a library, you want to find ways to offer something special and fun for the public,” Bastin said. “Because steampunk partakes in art, crafts, science, technology and history, that covers a lot of subject areas. Libraries want the public to discover what we have to offer in our collections, and this is a great way to stimulate that.”

To sign up for specific steampunk activities, call the Athens Public Library at (740) 592-4272. 


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