FUN FRIDAY: Fiction at the Smithsonian

I like to follow Adam Savage’s TESTED channel on YouTube. There are a couple of reasons. First of all it’s genuinely entertaining. Second, I’ve been a fan of his work even before Mythbusters, and third I think it’s great that he’s finding a way to keep himself busy. Although he did star on a cable show for about 13 years, something like that, it probably didn’t pay as much as you’d think. So finding ways to keep himself afloat in today’s unique environment’s a challenge, I’d bet. But he does it and does it well.

A galaxy far, far away from Detroit (but near the White House)

I don’t know how I missed it when it premiered, but I just got around to watching this video:

Apparently, the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum is restoring and preparing an X-Wing fighter for display. This is a real prop from the sequel trilogy, and Mr. Savage goes through why that sort of thing does belong in the Smithsonian along with real historical artifacts. He talks about it as if it’s the first time this has happened. Although, we know that’s not true

Set the Wayback Machine to 1992

In 1992 I was a much younger fellow, and far more prone to road trips. I can’t remember exactly why I found myself in Washington, DC in the late winter of that year but I did. And, while I was there, I happened to bump into one of the first traveling exhibitions of original Star Trek props. Because everything is on the internet now, you can virtually attend that very same exhibit. This is part one of an 8-part video series thoughtfully posted by YouTuber The Prop King. 

If you’re more into still pictures, you can slog through The Star Trek Prop Authority’s site. The site’s hard to navigate; it’s typical of what you saw of blogs 10-15 years ago. But, scroll down to the middle and look for this graphic:

and you’ll see the available articles. Remember, this was 1992, and the quality of the photos isn’t great but it’s really clear what they are.

What really struck me about this exhibit was the extremely poor quality of the props. Remember, these were props made over 25 years earlier for a TV show. I don’t know how they had been stored, but they weren’t designed to hold up that long and it shows.

I remember thinking how great this stuff looked on TV and how in person it was so obvious that these were just painted pieces of wood. But to be in the presence of these particular painted pieces of wood was really kind of neat. They even had the original Enterprise model:

which, if I recall, was lightly restored so that it wouldn’t, you know, fall down.

Not the last time

Readers of this blog may recall that the very same model was restored and given a position of prominence in 2016. Apparently it was removed in 2019 as part of a restoration effort for the entire museum that will be complete in 2026.

Fantasy has a place in reality

The Smithsonian Institution has always understood that our fiction helps dictate our reality. That’s why they’ve collected pop culture artifacts for about 75 years. Most are stored in the National Museum of American History, but occasionally there’s something so significant to the history of flight that it just belongs somewhere else. I’d argue that Poe Dameron’s X-Wing might not be such a piece, that Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing would have been a better choice, but hey, it’s a start.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.