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Moving the Star Trek Starship Enterprise Studio Model

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On September 11, 2014, the studio model of the Star Trek starship Enterprise, which has been on public display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum since 1976, was removed for conservation in preparation for its new display location in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, which will open in July 2016. The announcement of the artifact’s inclusion in the transformed Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall was made on April 3, 2014.

A V-2 missile on display in the Space Race gallery at the Museum in Washington, DC

This 3.4 meter (11-foot) model of the Star Trek starship Enterprise will go on display in the reimagined Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.

The eleven-foot-long studio model was used in filming the original Star Trek television series, (NBC, 1966-1969). Paramount donated it to the National Air and Space Museum in 1974. Initially displayed beginning in September 1974 in the Arts and Industries Building’s Life in the Universe exhibit, this significant cultural icon has been displayed in various locations in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC since that building’s opening in July 1976, although it has also been off display occasionally. Since March of 2000, it had been in a custom-built display case on the lower level of the Museum’s store.

The Star Trek Starship Enterprise being removed from the Museum Shop

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

As an almost 50-year-old artifact, the Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model needs some conservation before it can go back on display. It has been previously treated three times during its history at the Museum: in 1974, 1984, and 1991, but has not had any significant treatment other than basic dusting since 2000. The final plan for the model’s treatment will depend upon what is found during the physical examination of the artifact. It was taken off display in mid-September 2014 so that the Museum’s conservators have enough time for close evaluation and research.

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.

Enterprise moving off display

The Star Trek starship Enterprise Studio Model being moved through the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.

The Enterprise model will not be on public view while it is being evaluated and treated. It is being moved to the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Check the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall website and follow the Museum on social media for updates on the treatment of the Enterprise model – and the other artifacts in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.

Margaret Weitekamp is a curator in the Space History Department of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

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25 thoughts on “Moving the Star Trek Starship Enterprise Studio Model

  1. I sure hope they undo that horrid paint-job that was done to it during the last restoration. All those grid lines that were emphasized… they were not like that when filmed for the TV show. This model needs to be restored so that it looks the way it did when it was used for filming the original Star Trek.

  2. Please take your time and do the research. The current paint application does not reflect how the Enterprise originally looked. Especially the bottom saucer section. I can’t wait to come see it in two years!

  3. I sincerely hope your restoration team can undo the unfortunate changes made to the Enterprise model and bring it to its original studio appearance. The last “restoration” job was unworthy of the Smithsonian, done by a model maker without an understanding of what restoration is, and without due respect for the original artifact. The atrocious “weathering” is nothing like the original, and gives the model the appearance of an over the hill movie star wearing cake makeup. It was a sad and disturbing experience to see her this way. I look forward to seeing the model again, as she was when she was new.

  4. Sad to see the Enterprise off exhibit, but the opportunity to have the model conserved and preserved for future generations is exciting. I would love to see her apperance returned to what the model looked like during shooting, possibly with the otherside also completed “cosmeticly”. But as long as the current “weathering” is changed and the model looks much closer to her original filming condition. I will be happy!

  5. I agree with all the other comments here…I sure hope they take the time to repaint it. I think we all understand by now that the gird lines were in fact present but to emphasize them like they were makes the ship look completely different from what we’re used to.

  6. The people crying about the current paint job are probably going to be upset. But read what the article said. They said they are going to err toward conservation, NOT a restoration. They define what these mean. SO it looks like they will conserve the current appearance, not restore it to it’s studio appearance.

  7. The 11 foot studio model of the original Enterprise has already been so significantly altered from its appearance in 1969 when it was used as a filming prop that neither conservation nor preservation should be the major concerns. For example, the inboard nacelle grids, the nacelle domes, the main sensor/deflector, the side of the impulse engines, the upper bridge sensor, and the port side of the model have already been replaced and/or greatly altered. I understand that only the upper portion of the primary hull is unaltered. Therefore, I should think that restoration would be the primary goal.

  8. Well, the grid lines were not there to the degree they’ve been made out to be. Those were pencil lines. Not engraved. I just hope it doesn’t come back with a flame pattern and pinstriping this time.

  9. The last restoration matches the untouched upper saucer as was directed by the museum to the restoration team. The modellers on the team were all extremely dedicated Star Trek aficionados and all were professionals who had worked on movie models. A shooting model always looks over weathered and heavily painted because the bright studio lights wash out most of it. If you take a flash picture of the model without glass in the way it will look very much like it does on TV.

  10. Agreed, the grid marks are hideous…there is alot of detail and photos online regarding this model and it’s various stages of production throughout the making of the pilot and improvements over the three seasons…..if they do it correctly, they will restore it to the last version of TOS..

  11. I do hope that the restoration team is able to restore this beautiful lady to her looks from the 60s. Like other commentators above, I want to see the ship as it looked on TV and even with harsh lighting the hideous grid on the underside of the primary hull would look wrong. Although not strictly authentic it would be nice if the detail missing from the left hand side of the secondary hull was added so that it could be viewed 360 degrees and it did not detract from the look of a “real” ship. This is one of the most important artefacts of TV history and its wonderful that it still exists at all – but restored it will be a joy for generations to come and its great that its just in time for the 50th anniversary in 24 months! Star Trek is three weeks older than me and one of my earliest memories is sitting on my dad’s knee watching Balok and being really scared!

  12. Frankly, “conservation over preservation over restoration” should not apply in this case. The museum came into possession of the model and THEN altered its appearance. Whether well intentioned or not, the museum allowed past restorers to use artistic license when repainting the model. It’s now the museum’s responsibility to return the artifact to how it was when they took possession. If you break it, you fix it. If money is the issue, the museum should make a call to Discovery or Sy-Fy channel and convince them do a TV documentary of the restoration. It would be educational and entertaining to see the history of this important cultural icon and see how it was loving restored for future generations.

  13. Just look at the top of the primary hull: pencil lines that did not show well on television. Let those lines and the level of weathering there be the guide, not the recent overdone hack job. If that were the level of weathering on the show, and the lights washed it out, the gaffer should have been fired.

  14. David Mc, I’m sorry, you are wrong about the upper saucer. The last ‘restoration’ did, in fact, repaint that area, and the grid lines were added there, as well. I say added because per Mr. Datin, the original model maker in charge of building Enterprise, there were no grid lines on the ship. I can believe that there might have been some remnants of pencil guidelines added to help the model makers as they applied the markings, but if that grid pattern was there it should have shown up in at least SOME of the thousands of photos taken of the previously-unaltered top of the saucer before the last work was done on the model. In fact, NO lines ever showed up in any photos (including photos I, myself, took in the 1980’s with professional-quality camera and film) before the last work on the model was begun. It is sad that so many people have chosen to believe in a myth because of the ‘artistic’ license taken by one person. I’m sorry if this seems like a rant, but too many people have misunderstood what actually happened.

    And yes, Sammi Frysco, you are right about the model having been modified by the museum. Part of that is because the deflector dish on the front of the lower hull, and the domes on the front of the engine nacelles, were lost by Paramount and never delivered to the Smithsonian. Those parts had to be recreated. The prior dish was the wrong shape, and in replacing it the last person to work on it actually did a good job copying the original part. The nacelle domes are also now much better than the original replacements added so the model could be displayed. The too-high and too rounded upper sensor dome (on top of the saucer) should be replaced with a more appropriately-shaped one during this restoration.

    As for weathering, in the case of a special effects model like this it would more likely be the matting processes that washed out the details. Matting (in film) is the process of replacing part of an image with another image shot at a different time. Enterprise was shot in front of a blue screen, which would allow the film lab to render an optical ‘hole’ in the background (the stars whipping past, in many cases) through which the image of the model would show, allowing it to appear the the ship was flying through space. This processing would often reduce the level of detail that would still be visible in the final shot. That was one reason the model was so big, so the details would be more pronounced. The same sort of shots today can be rendered electronically and, because they don’t have the same detail loss, a smaller model would be able to be used to achieve the same results.

  15. Please do a restoration, not just a conservation. She should appear as she did from 66 to 69. The Ed Miriaki restoration is a travesty.

  16. James, you are wrong. There are faintly penciled grid lines. Email me and I will send pics that show them.

  17. Well, Seeing the orig Enterprise during the opening of the NASM in 1976 only confirms that it must be restored back to the orig configuration as per the 1966 opening season…………originality yes but as it stands now it’s TARTED UP and made to look more like the movies E’s of the 1980’s ……….I do agree, no lines, rotating Warp Nacelle engines and the smaller deflector dish would bring her back to the glory days of 1967-68 season ………as for color I prefer a greenish grey/white from the ep THE IMMUNITY SYNDROME….great 3/4 shots of her as she flies to creature!!!!

  18. The original 11 Foot model of the Starship Enterprise is my all time favourite Science fiction model. Of the three times I have been to Washington D.C. I’ve seen it twice and would love to see it again when the conservation is finished.

    I’m not going to debate gridlines or paint, that’s been ragging for years. Well before the internet allowed for plenty of reference material to be publicly available. Just google Richard Datin, William McCullars and Star Trek: Communicator magazine. Plus I assume the Smithsonian have access to resources unavailable to the general public.

    I have hobbyist interests in model kit building and understanding Movie special effects, which is why I have the opposite opinion to the comment made above suggesting the port side be detailed in, to imagine a 360 degree view.

    It should not be made to look like a “real” ship in that way.

    The model is part of the history of filming miniatures. The Port side is just as interesting if left as is. It displays how they got power into the model at the time. Does the original electric equipment still exist? If so it would be great to see it displayed beside the model, even if no longer operating.

  19. Pingback: Happy 50th Birthday to the original Starship Enterprise! | The Fog of Ward

  20. Adding my vote for a restoration. There are many fine reference photos of the ship during production to use as a guide. Even the people who did the HD versions of Trek effects digitally did a better job of following the original look of the ship.

  21. I worked on the restoration of the stuffed captain kirk statue.
    We used ‘cats paw’ marbles for eyes.

  22. To everyone who come to this website?, my name is Kenny smith
    I am looking for person who would like to try to help me build a model star ship of this ship size 55′ long By 30’Wide By 25′ Tall and then think or a real one please think of my idea ok. You can get back to me thru my email
    I am looking for a real good CAD program that I can use but the program needs to be in metric please. I do hope you all like to see this to come true?.

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