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The Sci-Fi Museum Lover's Bucket List

To boldly go where no exhibits have gone before.

If you’re a true fan of science fiction, whether campy or classic, space opera or speculative fiction, Star Trek or Jules Verne, you probably can’t get enough of the worlds your favorite characters inhabit, the clothes they wear, and the technology they wield. Lucky you, because some of the most exciting artifacts and memorabilia are exhibited in carefully curated museums around the world, and the momentum is building for even more. Check out this bucket list of already-existing sci-fi museums and exhibits, then get ready for two world-class museums coming to Hollywood, California and Washington D.C. in the years to come.

EMP Museum

The EMP Museum in Seattle, originally known as the Experience Music Project, originally included the Science Fiction Museum and Fantasy Hall of Fame. This is now known as the Infinite Worlds Exhibit (although the Science Fiction Hall of Fame is still maintained). This summer, a special exhibit opened called “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” and it’s got something for everyone. Much of the exhibit is on loan from Paul Allen, billionaire and co-founder of Microsoft, who is apparently one of the biggest Trekkies in the history of the world. You’ll see more than 150 artifacts from the television series and films, including, available to the public for the first time, Captain Kirk’s command chair and the navigation console from the original series. After you check out the array of Star Trek stuff, get a thrill from the Transporter Simulator, which beams you and your homies to a foreign planet (you can watch it live on the green screen, but have a friend stay out of the picture to film it so you can watch it again later). Since Star Trek has had a huge influence on society, you won’t be too surprised to learn that famous people like Lucille Ball (the reason Star Trek made it on TV!) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (a confirmed Trekkie!) are related to the show in some way or another. 

House of Elsewhere (Maison D'Ailleurs)

That name alone is enough to give me shivers of excitement. Located in Switzerland, the Maison d’Ailleurs (House of Elsewhere) is a museum and archive unparalleled by anything currently available in the United States. Around 70,000 documents relating to utopias, science fiction, and futurism reside there along with books, art pieces, toys, and a few very rare items dating back to the sixteenth century. A place for the curious but also for the dedicated, the Maison d’Ailleurs is as focused on research as it is on sharing its precious collections with the general public. A new wing dedicated to Jules Verne and early science fiction was built in 2008 and houses the most essential documents for Verne scholars. In addition, it includes models of extraordinary vehicles, an interactive terminal introducing the new kinds of extraordinary travels, the “poster-o-tron” (an automatic poster display), and pulp magazines. Right now, additional temporary exhibits include “Memories from the Future Space”, which offers different ways to look at science fiction manga and its connection to Western aesthetics, and “The God of Manga” featuring notable artist Osamu Tezuka’s original mangas including Astro Boy, Phoenix, Metropolis, Lost World, Dororo and Big X.

Hollywood Museum: Best of Science Fiction Exhibit 

The Hollywood Museum has a lot to offer for die-hard fans of pop culture; four legendary floors showcase more than 10,000 treasures of television and film that you just won’t see anywhere else. Right now, though, there’s an additional incentive for science fiction fans to hustle on over: the “Best of Science Fiction” exhibit. Check out the costumes that Spock and Captain Kirk actually wore in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Get an up-close-and-personal look at the original costumes worn by C-3P0, Darth Vader, and Imperial stormtroopers. If you love Planet of the Apes, you’ll be delighted to view the space suit Mark Wahlberg wore in the 2001 remake. While just one exhibit within a large museum, cinephiles will no doubt find plenty to gaze upon. 

American UFO Sci Fi Museum 

Are you a firm believer that we’re not alone in the universe, or a cynic dedicated to tearing down myths about the little green men? Whether you believe or just want the facts, you’ll enjoy a visit to the American UFO Sci-Fi Museum in Wisconsin. The focal point of the museum is an incredibly detailed recreation of the famous Alien Autopsy in New Mexico's Area 51, which leads to its focus on other alien encounters both on our planet and in fiction. Check out interpretive exhibits covering Star Wars, Star Trek, and Planet of the Apes after you amuse yourself with tales of local alien abductions.

And coming soon…

Hollywood Science Fiction Museum 

The efforts of one man to preserve a Paramount-built Star Trek Enterprise-D display bridge (the style seen on the hugely successful TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation) have turned into a massive project that will preserve decades of science fiction history. You may have seen it touring at conventions, but now the Hollywood Science Fiction Museum is scheduled to be permanently housed in a state-of-the-art facility in Los Angeles in 2018. You can get involved with the campaign right now! The museum’s vision is far from mercenary, and I was inspired just reading the site's FAQs on. They intend to make the museum as interactive as possible and will allow all visitors, free of charge, to sit in the Bridge chairs, pose in front of the TARDIS, and in other ways get up close and personal with all the amazing artifacts they are working to keep around, which include (and this list just blows my mind) an original-series Star Trek bridge set, Star Wars props and costumes, Battlestar Galactica sets, a Doctor Who Tardis, the cockpit from Firefly, a 1966 Batmobile, and a DeLorean from Back to the Future. That's the beginning: the image above shows you their plans for large-scale interactive models of starships, and and AND there’s going to be a Hall of Robots. Every room will feature music and sound effects and guests and staff alike are welcome to cosplay within the museum. Oh - and right now, no one involved with the project is making a salary of any kind. This is the kind of incredible effort that restores my faith in humanity. 

Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, D.C.

About 2-3 years away from realization, the Museum of Science Fiction is underway with 38 volunteers at the helm. A 3,000 square foot preview museum is also on the horizon. This museum’s focus will be on the history of science fiction with several galleries, including “The Creators” (the creation and definition of science fiction), “Other Worlds” (Alien Worlds and Alternate Earths, Exhibit on Societies, Exhibit on Artificial Worlds), “Vehicles,” “Time Travel,” “Aliens, Creatures, and Altered Life,” “Computers and Robots,” and “Technology” (think Clarke’s Third Law - "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”). While still very much in the conceptual and fundraising stages, it’s thrilling to imagine a sci-fi museum to join the many others so emblematic of the nation’s capital.

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Sarah Quinn
Sarah Quinn

I'm a writer in love with India, Stars Wars, fantasy, travel, and Thai curries. My childhood heroes were Luke Skywalker and Joan of Arc. I muse on superheroes, sci-fi, feminism, and more.

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