Sometimes even iconic television stars go on hiatus. Beginning on October 7, 2019, the starship Enterprise studio model used to film Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969) will be temporarily removed from exhibit because of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s ongoing renovation of the building on the National Mall in Washington, DC. As a part of the scheduled construction, the Museum’s Independence Avenue entrance and the south lobby will close in October. All of the artifacts in that space must be removed.
The filming model has been on display since the reopening of the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall on July 1, 2016. The exhibit, which will return to public view when the Hall reopens fully, highlights the model’s two sides. On the fully-decorated starboard side, the labels highlight how much Star Trek (and Trek fans) affected American and world culture. The undecorated port side, which always faces away from the camera during filming, tells the story of the art of television and film making using models and miniatures.
The extensive research and meticulous conservation that were conducted on the model in the recent past confirmed the need for careful exhibit conditions. The model’s custom-designed and -built case features motorized shades to protect the artifact from sunlight as well as temperature and humidity controls to preserve its wooden structure. In the midst of all of the changes underway, neither the case nor the artifact can easily be re-mounted in another location. Therefore, the Enterprise model is joining a long list of iconic artifacts that will be off public view for the duration.The logistics of the Museum’s long renovation project are complex. The Museum will never fully close. Instead, sections of the building are being walled off and the artifacts either removed or protected in place. In the meantime, the staff are busily preparing the content, layout, and artifacts for the reimagined galleries. When the entire project is completed (in time for the building’s 50th birthday in 2026), the revitalized and transformed building will house new exhibits as well as old favorites. The Enterprise studio model is scheduled to return to its place of honor in the south lobby of the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.In the meantime, like many of the other prized objects in the collection, the model will ride out the storm of construction in safe storage, out of public view beginning October 7, 2019. Throughout the renovation, the Museum will be posting behind-the-scenes photos and stories, as well as additional content about the Enterprise and other artifacts in the collection.So make your plans to bid farewell—but not goodbye—to the popular culture icon. The Museum on the National Mall opens each day at 10am and closes at 5:30pm. The interior lights in the model illuminate each day at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm.And whether you come in the next month or visited the model sometime in the past, let us see your selfies with the Enterprise on Twitter and Instagram using #EnterpriseAtNASM.
Margaret A. Weitekamp, Ph.D. is the Department Chair and Curator of the Space History Department at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.