Star Trek’s USS Enterprise gets serious Smithsonian restoration

Smithsonian doing meticulous restoration of USS Enterprise spaceship


Few museums in the world can restore and preserve important historical items like the Smithsonian. So it comes as no surprise the level of detail and effort by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the conservation of the original TV studio model of Star Trek’s main attraction, the USS Enterprise.

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According to a recent post on its “Air and Space” blog, the museum detailed the meticulous work going into the refurbishing of the 11-ft model: “After a year of extensive research, conservation work on the original studio model of the USS Enterprise is now underway in the Museum’s spacedock. Our goal is to stabilize the model and return it to its appearance from August of 1967, during the filming of the episode The Trouble with Tribbles, which marked the last known modification of the ship during the production of Star Trek.”

According to the Smithsonian, the original model was featured in all 79 of Star Trek’s original episodes and was donated to the museum in 1974.

You can get an idea of how meticulous the museum is being about the restoration from the blog: “The Enterprise model has been carefully separated into its individual components—saucer section; secondary hull; port and starboard nacelles and pylons; deflector dish array; hangar bay doors; and the bridge.

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Each section is being meticulously studied to determine its construction and condition and will be documented with visible, ultraviolet, and infrared photography. We completed X-ray photography, with help from our colleagues at the Smithsonian Zoological Park, in spring 2015… To understand the layers of paint applied to the model over the decades, microscopic cross sections of the paint were sampled and studied by Dr. Susan Buck, a conservator specializing in the analysis of painted surfaces. The analysis revealed layers of paint from four generations of filming and four previous restorations. The only area with unaltered original paint, on top of the saucer, will be painstakingly cleaned and stabilized, but not altered.”

According to the blog, the Enterprise will get a final grey paint job in April and should be back on public display by July.

If you have never been to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum or Udvar-Hazy Center you really need to make the trip to the Washington, DC area.

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