ARLINGTON, Va. – Weary travelers walking into baggage claim at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport normally do not want to think about planes or itineraries. They just want to get their bags and leave.
One small exhibit is challenging travelers to fight the urge to sprint out of the airport. It wants them to stop and think about travel in a whole new way. Maybe going to Pluto.
“I am waiting for someone, and it was just sort of here. I decided to stop and check it out,” Kelly Crum, 33, an Ohio State University academic adviser from Columbus, Ohio, said.
The Museum of Science Fiction opened “The Future of Travel” exhibit Wednesday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Most people passing by baggage claim No. 12 in Terminal C craned their necks to see the 6-foot replica of the Orion III Space Clipper from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Every so often someone would even belly-up to the glass and inspect the ship in detail.
By Thursday, museum officials expected to add 1950s-style travel posters for several planets to help travelers daydream about the future. Could they one day race a car on Pluto? What would it be like to rock climb on Saturn’s largest moon? And there is a smartphone app that allows anyone to plan a fictitious trip to the moon.
“You can create your boarding pass to the future, and it will create an Expedia-style visit to the moon,” Associate Curator Katherine Kidwell said. “It will give you an itinerary of what you can do.”
Open until October, the pop-up museum is the first physical exhibit by the Museum of Science Fiction. Founded in 2013, the museum has existed solely online until this week.
“It will help get the word out to our fans and everybody walking through that it is real – it exists. It is going to have a physical location,” Nico Pandi, museum spokesman, said.
Even before the exhibit opened, the exhibit developed a following on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com. A page for the exhibit raised $16,251 from 325 backers. The original goal was $7,500.
“The Museum of Science Fiction is such a different kind of museum, especially for the East Coast and D.C., where it will be hopefully located. By surpassing our goal, it shows the enthusiasm for this type of exhibit and this type of museum,” Kidwell said.
The museum hopes to maintain that enthusiasm for its long-term goals. Within five years, the museum hopes to join the crowded Washington museum field with a permanent building. The Smithsonian Institution has 18 museums in the capital. Private museums, including the International Spy Museum, National Geographic Museum and Newseum, already dot the Washington map.
By early 2016, the museum hopes to open a preview museum to tests exhibits. Unlike “The Future of Travel Exhibit,” the plans are to make it immersive. Visitors will walk through a portal to enter a darkened museum gallery. Through a video, a wall-sized screen will transport them into an alternate reality where things such as the science of light sabers are discussed.
Museum officials are negotiating with a property owner for the preview museum and hope to announce the location within the month, Pandi said. A crowdfunding campaign for the preview museum raised $54,923 of the estimated $160,000 needed for the site. A collections team is asking private collectors to consider loaning their items to the museum. Everything from movie memorabilia to original artwork is being considered.
All of the work is in part to reach the diverse audience of science fiction fans. From readers of dystopian novels to those who dream of time travel, Pandi said, the goal is to have something for everyone.
“I think science fiction fans themselves, that group is going to be really impressed. I think they will be able to find something that they recognize, either from their childhood or from today, that they have never been able to see up close and personal,” Pandi said.
Visitor experience technology, called ambient intelligence, is being developed to help appeal to non-science fiction fans. The technology will assess a person’s interests and compare it with museum exhibits.
“It is incorporated into the museum itself. The point of it is that it will create this individualized itinerary based on what they like,” Pandi said. “Hopefully visitors who do not know much about science fiction will be able to experience it through their interests.”
Crum said she was “not particularly” a science fiction fan and would likely not go to a full scale museum. However, she did appreciate “The Future of Travel” exhibit.
“It is nice that it is here,” Crum said. “It is neat.”
Reach reporter Sarah Fulton at Sarah.Fulton@scripps.com or 202-408-1492. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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