Trekkies, rejoice: Museum of Science Fiction hopes to open in D.C.

Media Credit: Photo Courtesy of Museum of Science Fiction

The Museum of Science Fiction's small preview museum will include architecture designs by local artists, who submitted their work last fall in an open contest.

Dust off your Wookiee costume – a new sci-fi museum could be coming to a neighborhood near you.

As soon as this fall, a D.C.-based nonprofit hopes to open a Museum of Science Fiction in D.C., featuring props from popular extra-terrestrial films alongside high-tech exhibits on sci-fi novels.

Before the full museum opens to starry-eyed fans, the group plans to open the doors of a smaller preview museum late this year, showing a few exhibits of undisclosed artifacts and multimedia presentations of popular sci-fi feature films and books.

The museum, run by about 100 volunteers, called on potential visitors to leave their mark on the preview museum by submitting architectural designs for the space. In a contest last fall, executives sifted through more than 460 applications for the perfect rendering “to inform the actual design for what will be a street-level, retail-sized mini museum in the D.C. area,” said museum spokesman Neeraj Agrawal.

Looking to its full-size counterpart, the museum is also hosting a concept art competition that allows sci-fi artists to submit art in any medium that thematically relates to one of the museum’s seven proposed galleries, from “Time Travels” to “Aliens, Creatures and Altered Life.” A grand prize winner will receive $1,000.

Winning pieces will also be used in promotional materials for the museum. Submissions are due Feb. 28 at 5 p.m.

“Concept art and science fiction, they go hand in hand,” Agrawal said. “We want to give [science fiction artists] a chance to be rewarded for their craft.”

The museum is the brainchild of the organization’s executive director, Greg Viggiano. He said while on a vacation in London, he and his daughter were museum-hopping, visiting all types of museums with different themes. He sought out a science fiction museum to complement research for a screenplay he was writing at the time, but couldn’t find one.

“I thought, ‘Gosh. That’s weird. They’ve got museums for everything else, but why isn’t there a science fiction museum?’” Viggiano said. “And then I started to discuss the idea with some friends and they said, ‘Well, we’ve got to do something about this.’”

The preview aims to draw big-name, science and math-driven donor companies like Google and eBay, with the goal to expand the museum into a full-sized facility – at a currently undecided location – within the next three years.

Viggiano said the museum aims to raise $5 million for its initial preview museum. Last spring, the museum failed to meet an Indiegogo fundraising goal of $160,000, falling about $110,000 short.

While the Museum of Science Fiction has the potential to carve out a niche among tourists, Legro pointed out that it will have to compete with the museum attractions all over the District that have no admission fee, like the Smithsonian Institution museums.

The preview museum’s admission fee will be “competitive with other private museums in the area,” Agrawal said, like The Newseum, which charges $25 for admission, and the International Spy Museum, where tickets run $20 each.

Families come to D.C. with finite time and money to spend, said Patrice Legro, director of the Marian Koshland Science Museum in D.C., putting pressure on attractions to stand out.

“You can spend much more than a week in the Smithsonian museums and all of the outdoor memorial sites,” Legro said.

She applauded the Museum of Science Fiction’s vision and plans. While the Koshland Museum represents “serious science,” she said, the Museum of Science Fiction adds a fresh concept to the D.C. museum scene — that hard science education can be tied into something as culturally popular as science fiction.

“I think that we should always welcome innovation,” Legro said. “Nobody has a corner on that market, and so in that regard, it’s always wonderful to see new innovative ideas coming to the floor.”

In the last 10 years, multimedia interactive exhibits have won over tourists, she said. The Museum of Science Fiction is staying ahead of the curve, and Legro said she likes “how they’re trying to hook [science-related] education to a popular culture interest.”

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