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Advising on the Star Trek Starship Enterprise

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Who do you call when you need to know everything there is to know about the Star Trek starship Enterprise? As the curator for that artifact—the original 11-foot model used in filming the Star Trek television program that aired from 1966 until 1969—I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and learning about Star Trek. The Museum has a lot of source material to rely upon: the acquisition, restoration, and exhibit record for this artifact stands at more than 1000 pages (and growing). In fact, I hired an intern two summers ago just to create a comprehensive index for that record so that I could know, for certain, whether I had checked every relevant document in it when searching for an answer. That review of the Museum’s records was a part of the move of the model that I have been planning for several years.

The Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model being removed from the lower level of the National Air and Space Museum Shop.

The Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model being moved through the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.

This fall, in September 2014, the Museum moved the Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model to the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Virginia, in preparation for its new display location in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall in 2016. Before it goes back on display in July 2016, the model needs some care and treatment.

Malcolm Collum, National Air and Space supervisory conservator, took ultraviolet photography of the external surface of the Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model in the Museum’s Conservation Lab. The original paint on the ship’s primary hull (the “saucer”) is easily distinguished from paint applied during previous restoration work on the bridge. The original paint has started to show signs of “traction cracking” due to shrinkage with age. Note, that the brightness and contrast on this photo have been adjusted slightly to provide a better view of the details. Photo Courtesy of Malcolm Collum

To support that effort, the Museum has invited a special advisory committee of industry experts to offer information, research, and advice to help the Museum make the final aesthetic and structural decisions about the conservation and display of this cultural icon. The special advisors are a “Who’s Who” in the industry, and I’m delighted that they have agreed to help. To start our work, we’ve already held an initial video teleconference, which resulted in this fun “Brady Bunch” photo of us all.

The special advisory committee of industry experts.

The special advisory committee includes (in alphabetical order):

Doug Drexler
Doug Drexler is an Academy Award-winning visual effects artist, designer, sculptor, illustrator, and makeup artist. His credits include Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and subsequent Star Trek films. He is also known for designing the NX-01 Enterprise and the Enterprise J.

John Goodson
John Goodson is a studio model maker and digital modeling artist for Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) who worked on four Star Trek films. He was first a model maker on Star Trek VI and then became the model supervisor for Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact.

Gary Kerr
A well-known hobby industry designer, archivist, and author, Gary Kerr consulted for CBS on the production of the 2006 remastered Star Trek: The Original Series, for the CBS Digital team.

Mike and Denise Okuda
Michael Okuda was the lead graphic designer for four Star Trek TV shows and seven Trek movies. Denise Okuda was a graphic artist and video coordinator for the show.  They are the authors of the Star Trek Encyclopedia and other Trek reference works.  Mike and Denise recently served as technical consultants for the HD remastering of the original Star Trek series and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Andrew Probert
Andrew Probert is an artist who is best known for designing the USS Enterprise for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the Enterprise-D for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Adam Schneider
A Star Trek studio model collector, Schneider restored the Shuttle Craft Galileo, a full-size prop from the original Star Trek series. The Galileo prop is now on display at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s visitor’s center in Houston, Texas.

Rick Sternbach
Richard Sternbach is an illustrator who is best known for his space illustrations and his work on the Star Trek television series, which began with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1978.

John Van Citters
The Vice President for Product Development at CBS Consumer Products, Van Citters has worked on Star Trek for 16 years.

As an artifact, the Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model has been treated three times during its history at the Museum: in 1974, 1984, and 1991. It has not had any significant treatment other than basic dusting, however, since 2000. The current work comes after years of internal planning; I have been researching and organizing this relocation of the Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model since 2011. You can see the model in person in the Conservation Lab during the Udvar-Hazy Center Open House on Saturday, January 24th. I’ll be on site all day, talking about the model’s history and its future. Or check back here. The public will be kept apprised of the Museum’s progress on the artifact conservation via the Museum website and other social media platforms.

Margaret A. Weitekamp, Ph.D. is a curator for the Space History Department

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33 thoughts on “Advising on the Star Trek Starship Enterprise

  1. I hope you get it right this time. The Smithsonian mucked it up from the start by painting the model a solid gray (except for the top of the saucer) in 74. That obliterated the original details. The last restoration added the weathering and grid lines back, but they are horribly bold when they should be subtle. A nice medium would be nice to see. Something that matches all original special effects shots I’ve spent so much time pouring over on the DVD to get the right details for my hobby model work.

  2. So jealous of you guys.What a special high light of their live to work on that girl to touch up her glory.Live long and Prosper.Long may she fly.NCC1701.

  3. Outstanding line-up! Many of which are good friends of mine, specifically my close bud, Doug Drexler, who IMHO, there is no one more qualified to advise on this very special project!

    All that best and thank you for taking such good care of our gal, Big E! :)

    peace & bananas | deg

  4. Now that the Enterprise is undergoing restoration and conservation, what has taken its place in the display case? Just curious.

  5. Please 3D scan the model as is–the parts by themselves, and the whole thing once finished up.

    This may cost some money–but are there large slit scans, so a true side views (orthos) may be mad available–without parallax.

    Consider that as well.

  6. Thank you! That’s a great celebration. We wished it happy anniversary, we just couldn’t bring cake into the conservation lab.

  7. ” …the Star Trek television series, which began with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1978.”

    Wasn’t it the other way around, except that the TV series started in 1965?

  8. Pingback: Smithsonian’s ‘Star Trek’ Enterprise Docks for Museum Restoration « INSIDE OUTER SPACE

  9. Pingback: Smithsonian’s ‘Star Trek’ Enterprise Docks for Museum Restoration » Trek News Network

  10. Pingback: Smithsonian's 'Star Trek' Enterprise Docks for Museum Restoration -

  11. Hi Jeff, Enterprise will be worked on in the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory which is not open to the public, but we will certainly provide updates and photos as they become available!

  12. “Wasn’t it the other way around, except that the TV series started in 1965?”

    Curt, they were talking about Sternbach’s work on Star Trek, which began with the motion picture, and then carried forward through TNG, DS9, etc. Poorly phrased.

  13. So glad to the our great lady receiving a restoration she richly deserves. With such an esteemed consulting team on board, I’m sure she will be treated well.
    Please, no heavy handed airbrushed panelling this time! :-) let’s have her looking as she did on Television.

    Is there any chance that a webpage can be added showing the progress of the restoration, or is there one already? I would appreciate being able to see the progress, including the wonderful x-Rays that were taken.

    Congratulations and best wishes to all involved. I sincerely wish I was part of the team!

  14. Hi Bruce, Thank you for your kind words. At the moment the best place to get the latest updates on our progress is here on the blog. But we’ll certainly let you know if that changes. We hope to share more photos in the future.

  15. Thank you so much for the blog entries and allowing us to follow the progress of the restoration of the old girl! Exciting stuff!!

  16. Pingback: Smithsonian's 'Star Trek' Enterprise Docks for Museum Restoration - People's News Now

  17. I attended the Open House, and I hope that that more consideration has gone into the possibility of having the ship lit internally. I know the concerns about preservation versus update, but if it is to be displayed in a way to show how it inspired people, lit is the way to go. And you will have the gratitude of everyone who sees it in its glory.

  18. An extraordinary project with an extraordinary team of advisers. Typical of the Smithsonian; and typical of Star Trek. You all deserve the highest praise. I look forward to visiting the restored model on the next DC trip.

    This is also a milestone for those of us who see the human adventure as a continuum between what has been and what will be. The decision to display this fictional vessel in the Hall of Flight with real spacecraft is brilliant. Because as Leonardo believed, art and science only work when they work together. Art inspires; then some inspired young child “makes it so.” So placing the Enterprise in the Hall of Flight is appropriate, an acknowledgement of the STEAM approach to education, and I am very impressed with what you’re doing.

  19. Any updates from the restoration team? It’s been 6 months since the original blog information was posted. :)



  20. Wow, I just stumbled into this. I am so happy to see this restoration (or cleaning or anything) being done! You have assembled a fantastic team for the work And I am smiling, knowing they will make sure this is done correctly.
    I like the idea of scans and other material being collected while this is done, but I’ll bet there is no budget for that. Perhaps a licensee looking to make an ultimate model can pony up for that work?
    Great stuff, everyone.

    P.S. While discussing Rick’s CV, I remember him working on Voyager as well and staying over those stages when DS9 started… Of course, the Okudas were everywhere as were the obvious multiple clones of Doug.

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