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A museum I’d want to be a part of

Posted: November 8, 2013 8:20 a.m.
Updated: November 11, 2013 5:00 a.m.

I may just have to look for part-time living accommodations back up in the Washington, D.C., area. Why in the world -- or, more precisely, why in the whole universe -- would I want to subject myself to living up there, even part-time?

So, I might get in on the second floor (sorry, ground floor’s already taken, metaphorically speaking) of an effort to create a new museum in the nation’s capitol.

Are you ready?

The Museum of Science Fiction (MSF).

Now, don’t laugh; this is serious business. Three men and a woman have launched a $160,000 crowdfunding campaign in order to build a 3,000-square-foot “preview” museum to test the concept in late 2014. Their goal: a 50,000-square-foot permanent museum by 2017.

I found out about it while scanning Washington Post headlines. The Post’s John Kelly wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek column about meeting with the three men -- Greg Viggiano, Phil Smith and David Hart -- and talking with the woman, Mandy Sweeney. How tongue-in-cheek? Well, he wasn’t sure the men were actually human, although he “couldn’t detect any seams where an artificial carapace covered their lizard (or insectoid [or possibly protoplasm]) bodies)” and that he “communicated” with Sweeney “via a small handheld device.”

As a sci-fi geek/nerd/whatever myself, I think I laughed in the right places. Some readers commenting on the Post’s website didn’t get it, in my opinion, and thought he was belittling those of us that love the genre. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t; I actually don’t care.

What I do care about is whether or not Viggiano, Smith, Hart and Sweeney can actually pull it off because having a museum devoted to all things sci-fi would just be the coolest place for me to visit, possibly even to work.

The group already plans to include a scale model of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise and a facsimile of the TARDIS from Doctor Who (the Doctor’s time traveling craft). Visiting the future (ha, I got it in!) museum’s website led me to discover the following concepts:

• The “journey” in the museum would begin with the creators of the genre themselves and an examination of the definition of “science fiction.”

• Further in, they’d “explore the elements of storytelling, from the emergence of imagination, the arts, and the sciences.”

• A proposed “Other Worlds” gallery would present science fiction settings, including alien worlds, alternate worlds and the societies that inhabit them.

• Other galleries would show off the different vehicles depicted in sci-fi; focus on time travel; look at aliens, creatures and “altered life;” computers and robots; and other technology.

One of the reasons I like science fiction is that it asks the question “What if?” What if there are aliens? What if we could shrink ourselves to microscopic size? What if we could time travel? What if nanotechnology takes over our bodies? The list is endless, and give us so much to think about that actually touches our real lives.

Like, I said, serious business. I don’t think these folks are fooling around.

Viggiano holds a Ph.D. in communication from Florida State and has a 20-year background in product management and international operations in addition to having served as an adjunct professor at American University. He’ll act as the MSF’s executive director.

Smith will be chief curator. He is an artist, futurist, historian, imagineer (think Disney), writer and senior space industry analyst who also happens to be a docent at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (my favorite!). Smith would oversee the exhibits, restoration projects, permanent collection and archive. Just like a “real” museum.

Hart, according to Kelly’s column, will be director of project management. “He loved going to car shows as a kid and was always drawn to the concept vehicles that appeared in science fiction.”

Sweeney, listed as vice president/museum operations, has been a deputy program manager at NASA (wow), acting as lead consultant for developing the agency’s strategic plan. She would manage programming, educational outreach, human resources, project management, risk management, research and library services, marketing and public relations.

Others on board already include Alex Carvalho (chief information officer), Leo Imperial (VP/Visitor Experience and Programs), Daniel Weiss (VP/Business Development) and Jonathan Askin (general counsel). All of them appear to have impressive resumes.

Of course, I’m sure you’re long past shaking your heads and asking “Why?” Here’s what Viggiano says in his “welcome” on the MSF website:

“Education is central to our mission. We believe that science fiction presents an ideal device for sparking interest and spurring proficiency in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). But we’d like to go beyond STEM and broaden our focus to include the arts. We call it STEAM. We want to give teachers new tools. Cool tools that kids will love to use. Combined with inspiration and imagination, and creativity fueled by science fiction, our prospects look bright.”

Well, I can’t disagree with that. However, they have a long way to go and I’m not planning on leaving the C-I anytime soon.

But maybe when I retire I could become a docent. Now, that would be fun!

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