Tuesday 16 September 2014

Original USS Enterprise departs for refit

The original miniature of the USS Enterprise seen in Star Trek: The Original Series has been on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum since the 70s, but a few days ago was taken out of it's home in the museum gift shop (where it has resided since 2000). Fear not though, it will be returning, in time for the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, and fortieth anniversary of the museum, as part of a revamped displayed in the museum's centerpiece Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.

While waiting for the new display area to be readied, the model will undergo conservation work. The Smithsonian laid out their approach to that in their blog about the move:
The Museum’s general approach emphasizes conservation over preservation and preservation over restoration. Restoration is bringing an object back to its appearance and condition at a determined point in time in the past. With a restoration approach, there is less concern for preserving original materials and more focus on returning to the original specification, often through the addition of non-original materials. Preservation is an overall philosophy that favors keeping original material over creating an ideal physical appearance, while keeping the artifact from deteriorating any more. Conservation follows the preservation philosophy and is minimally invasive, utilizing scientific investigation and techniques to maintain original materials, preserving the object’s physical history of ownership and use.
It will be interesting how much they stick to the conservation over restoration, as previous work by the museum did in fact give the ship quite an overhaul. As you can see in some of the images below, the model currently features rather strong grid-lines that weren't present on it before the last time it had conservation work.

The new look Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.
When the Enterprise does return, it will sit alongside other historical artefacts depicting the history of flight and space exploration (like an up-scaled version of Admiral Marcus' office), including the Spirit of St. Louis, Bell X-1, and an Apollo Lunar Module. It has yet to be revealed how the Enterprise will be displayed in the new hall - The case it was just moved out of was created for it after X-Rays at the last move revealed the model was being stressed from its previous hanging displays.

Continue after the jump for a look at the Enterprise's history at the museum.

The Enterprise has been moved, and restored, several times by the museum, starting by reassembling the model after it was delivered:

The Enterprise was hung in a few different locations in early displays, starting in the Life In The Universe exhibition:

In 2000 the Enterprise was moved to the Museum's gift shop, supported from below for the first time to avoid stressing the model. The new display also meant viewers could get a better look at the ship, with it now not only being visible from below.

For more information on the model check out the Smithsonians artefact page, their previous blog on X-Raying the model, and latest blog on the new move. For information about the new display the Enterprise will be a part of, check out the Smithsonian's press release.

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