Article and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498)
We have no shared vision of what the
future looks like. To talk about our
future, we needed a depiction of a technologically advanced society that was
familiar to a broad audience. It would
also have to be pretty exciting, something that would energize people and make
them want to learn more about things that, at first blush, are pretty
esoteric. We needed something that also
gave us fertile ground to explore the implications of technology decisions.
What we needed was Star Wars.
realization, Star Wars: Where Science
Meets Imagination was born with a single goal: to examine the possibilities
of the future through the prism of the Star
Wars universe. In order to do that,
the exhibit (as first conceived) is divided into the two major themes of
transportation and robotics, and it utilizes a cornucopia of material that
include props and costumes from the saga, real world technology, theoretical
models, and interactive workstations that allow visitors the chance to
experiment first-hand with the concepts being presented.
opening to the public on
follows is a first-hand account from the opening day of the exhibit. Because of the sheer volume of material
available to visitors, keep in mind that this is hardly a comprehensive
to a Galaxy Far, Far Away”
to my job at Yodasnews.com, I’m also a fairly active member of the Pennsylvania
Star Wars Collecting Society (www.pswcs.com)
as is my wife, Michele. Traditionally,
each half of the state holds a meeting in the beginning of each month with a
member volunteering to host. As luck,
fate, or the Force would have it, the date for our February Eastern meeting was
scheduled for the 9th—the opening day for this exhibit. And even more fortunate, our host resides in
It was an
easy decision for our gracious host, Brad, to take the initiative and
coordinate a massive group trip to get an up close and personal experience with
the Star Wars universe. In the end, our group exceeded thirty
people—members as well as their families—and the logistics were firmly in
before the trip was spent in anticipation, and it was enough to keep me awake
the entire night. Thank the heavens for
caffeine. Night turned to daybreak, and
final preparations were made for the 100 mile journey from the
By , Michele and I had our supplies and
a healthy supply of cash (which would turn out to be grossly inadequate once
confronted with the merchandising), and we were on the turnpike. Naturally, no trip would be complete without
driving headlong into some wicked winter weather. Snow squalls.
High wind gusts. Ice glazing the
narrow highway. Undeterred, we drove
through the Poconos and the
In a mere
hour and forty, we coasted toward our staging area. Steadily, more PSWCS members arrived. We chatted and we joked and we anxiously
awaited our departure time.
At , we broke up into our carpooling
groups, and the caravan was on its way toward
And then we
ran straight into the frustrating reality that is
What we saw was breathtaking. (At this point, let me just say that Michele and I don’t get to take many trips and/or vacations like this, so forgive me when I sound a little over-enthusiastic).
inside, we steadily made our way past the
Of course, subversive marketing was in full force here. The entire front of the Sci-Store was filled with various Star Wars merchandise ranging from trinkets such as keychains and buttons to Kotobukiya models and Rubies replicas. And not surprisingly, the entrance to the ramp leading up to the exhibit was right in front of the store.
None of us
had time to fall victim just yet as the line moved at a brisk pace, and we
tendered our tickets. Thankfully, there
were no problems gaining entrance. Our
tickets were for a entrance time, and it was now a
little past . Mind you, this did
not mean anyone was rushed through the exhibit or allotted a set time. It was merely a way to stagger out the crowds
based upon what the museum figured would be the average time a person would
stay on the exhibit floor.
made our way past the gate keepers, we turned a corner and found ourselves at
the end of a line that sloped up a long ramp and turned left to backtrack down
an equally long hallway on the next floor.
At the end of that hallway was the exhibit entrance. While first sight of this line was daunting,
it moved surprisingly fast. In addition,
there was plenty to keep one’s attention.
The ramp ran parallel to a multi-level wall of windows that allowed a
broad view of the outside. By the time
you would get sick of looking at the city, chances are you were at the top of
the ramp and curving back to walk down the hallway.
During this final stretch, the exhibit pre-emptively began your education in all things Star Wars via a set of approximately twenty full-color wall plaques that lined the hallway. Each plaque bore a vibrant color picture from the saga along with a nugget of behind-the-scenes information. Hardcore fans of the saga will undoubtedly know all of these already, but it served as an interesting time-killer for casual or uninitiated visitors.
reaching the entrance, we were reminded that there would be no re-entry allowed
to the exhibit. Even stepping out for a
quick run to the bathroom required one to procure a bathroom pass from one of
the museum’s security guards.
caveat clearly understood, the doors opened…
Science Meets Imagination”
…and the Star Wars universe suddenly became not
so “far, far away”
Upon entering the dimly-lit exhibit floor of the Mandell Theater, the first sight our adjusting eyes fell upon was a four-man squad of fully-uniformed X-Wing pilots (the 501st Legion had a healthy-sized presence at the festivities) posing for pictures next to a nearly three-foot long X-Wing Starfighter prop. And in the glass class on our right was a large-scale prop of Sebulba’s podracer. Sadly, Anakin’s racer was absent from the proceedings as were many other pieces one would’ve expected to see.
(Please click the thumbnails below for the full size view)
lingering here and taking in the sights were not possible for two reasons. First, there was a steady yet constant influx
of visitors pouring into the exhibit, and this was the only place where one
would feel pressured to move on. Second,
the first major set piece was a mere ten feet away, brightly lit, and free of
any glass trappings…
The full-scale version of Luke Skywalker’s iconic Landspeeder.
was. Every weathered panel, every
chiseled edge, and every inspiration of a young child’s imagination was sitting
there, a monument to the childhood that none of us ever truly left behind. Bearing numerous reminders and admonitions to
“Please Do Not Touch”, the temptation was great as it was within an arm’s
reach. And I’m not ashamed to admit that
I hunkered down in a corner and stole a quick brush of the fingers—just for a
fleeting moment. But in that moment, it
all became real to me. This was as close
as I had ever come to being a part of the Star
Wars universe, and for a fan, that is the greatest feeling in the world.
As for the nuts and bolts of the set-up, the Landspeeder display had several components that one would find at nearly every open-air display and glass case in this exhibit. There was the obligatory full-color plaque that described the item (name, prop/costume/model/etc., Episode title), its place in the Star Wars universe, and (frequently) a quick blurb on how it correlated to the real world. There was also a video screen displaying close-captioned footage from the film and interviews with those involved in that item’s inclusion. While not present on this display (to the best of my recollection), audio could be heard at other displays through a cone-shaped device that one would press against their ear and switch on via a large push button on the display.
As an addition to the main Landspeeder display, the smaller shooting prop was included in a glass case, complete with its crudely-made puppet passengers (which, from a distance, were indistinguishable from the actors and droids). Prior to this, the closest picture I had seen of this particular Landspeeder prop was the small picture shown in the From Star Wars to Indiana Jones: The Best of the Lucasfilm Archives book, first published in 1994. Seeing it up close, however, was something amazing because the figures truly were made haphazardly, serving as a reminder in this CGI-laden Prequel Trilogy era that Star Wars’ roots were in the art of optical illusions and shoe-string budgets. While the Prequels demonstrate the potential of imagination, these relics remind us of the power of innovation.
(Please click the thumbnails below for the full size view)
from this main display, we entered the main floor of the exhibit. The showroom was not vast, but the
arrangement of the displays created paths that snaked throughout the room,
intersecting and diverging at multiple points.
It was a prime example of utilizing space to its maximum potential
whilst minimizing overcrowding. With
only a few exceptions around the more popular displays, one never felt as
though they were being squeezed into cramped spaces, which added to the
enjoyment of the event.
downside of this arrangement, however, is that the exhibit really didn’t feel
as though it adhered to the original intention of being organized into the two
major themes of transportation and robotics.
Vehicles—cinematic, real, and theoretical alike—were scattered
throughout the exhibit floor. The robotics
fared better as they were concentrated in the rear sections of the showroom and
incorporated a good mix of science fiction and science fact. Some displays, though, were clearly there
simply to satisfy the fans of the saga.
The armory case is the clearest example of such ancillary
additions. On the other hand, it looked
as though a third theme had been added to the overall exhibit, which explored
how people interact with and survive in various environments. Hoth was a prime example of this theme as
arctic biomes require substantial adaptation.
exhibit itself may have lacked total cohesion, I will attempt to arrange the
reminder of this section as thematically as possible. For a more comprehensive discussion of how Star Wars has influenced and has been
reflected in the real world, the companion book to the Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit is the place to go. It is a collection of articles written by
various scientists that explores many of the themes in much greater detail than
can be found in a museum exhibit. It can
currently be found for under $13.00 at amazon.com.
further ado, we will get into the specifics of the exhibit. ..
Click Here for Part 2!