Smithsonian Moves Original USS Enterprise Model Out Of Gift Shop To Prep For Big Hall Display


The studio model for the USS Enterprise from the original Star Trek series is on the move. Earlier this week the ship was removed from its latest display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, in preparation for move to a new location within the museum. The model will also be undergoing evaluation and conservation treatment. More details and photos below.

Original USS Enterprise Model Begins Move To New Home At Smithsonian

The studio model for the USS Enterprise from the original Star Trek has been on public display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC since the museum opened in 1976. The ship has moved around a bit over that time, but since 1999 it has been on display in the gift shop inside a special case (see below). In April of this year the Smithsonian announced the ship would be moving again, this time to the central "Milestones of Flight" hall which is being renovated.

USS Enterprise on display at the Air and Space Museum Gift Shop

On Friday in a blog post the Smithsonian revealed the Enterprise display was taken down on September 11. Renovations to the new Milestones of Flight Hall will be completed in time for the Museum’s 40th anniversary in 2016. According to the Smithsonian, the11-foot long Enterprise model is in need of "some conservation" before it can return for public viewing.

USS Enterprise model being removed from display at Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on September 11, 2014

The model is now being transported to the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory in Virginia where it will be "evaluated and treated." According to the Smithsonian the model "has not had any significant treatment other than a basic dusting since 2000."

USS Enterprise model being prepared for transport

The Smithsonian announcement explains their approach to conservation:

The Museum’s general approach emphasizes conservation over preservation and preservation over restoration. Restoration is bringing an object back to its appearance and condition at a determined point in time in the past. With a restoration approach, there is less concern for preserving original materials and more focus on returning to the original specification, often through the addition of non-original materials. Preservation is an overall philosophy that favors keeping original material over creating an ideal physical appearance, while keeping the artifact from deteriorating any more. Conservation follows the preservation philosophy and is minimally invasive, utilizing scientific investigation and techniques to maintain original materials, preserving the object’s physical history of ownership and use.

The almost 50-year-old piece of Star Trek history was previously treated by the museum back when it was donated in 1974 and again in 1984 and 1991. The model was first on display at the "Life in the Universe" display but had been moved at least twice before ending up in the gift shop in 1999. One of the reasons for the move was concern over how the ship was being displayed by hanging it and how that could possibly damage the structure of the model. So they built a special case with custom stanchions to support it, and it remained there in the gift shop until this week.

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The USS Enterprise model in some of its past homes at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

Once the work is completed, the model will be part of the display in the Milestones of Flight Hall which is the central exhibition space that greets visitors entering the Museum. This hall includes some major pieces of history including the Spirit of St. Louis and the Bell X-1. The hall has remained mostly unchanged since the museum opened, but thanks to a $30 million donation from Boeing, it will be going through a number of renovations, including adding an Apollo Lunar Module (and the starship Enterprise). There will also be a new floor plan, new digital "mobile experience" and more.

Promo video for the new Milestone’s of Flight Hall – future home of the original USS Enterprise model

You can follow the Museum on social media to keep track of progress for the Enterprise model and other artifacts.

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I’ve seen the model in all three of its locations in the Air & Space Museum, and the gift shop was by far the most depressing. The “restoration” job done on it before it went into the gift shop was … horrible. At the risk of offending sex workers, it looked like an over-rouged madame well past her prime. I hope the museum does the Enterprise justice, restores her to her proper appearance, and displays her proudly in one of the most prestigious museum spaces in the world, The Milestones of Flight area of the NASM, where she belongs.

I saw it twice, once in the eighties and once in the gift shop in 1999, and, I agree, it was a bit depressing to see the make-over they did to this once-beautiful and graceful ship. I feel they “over-did” it quite a bit once it was in the gift shop. Would love to see it restored to look just like it did in the sixties.

While the restoration paint job was a disaster, I do prefer the floor level display of the model to hanging it. I don’t want to have to use a zoom lens to see it up close. Good to see them looking at possibly returning this iconic piece of television history to it’s original glory.

Paging, bob orci. bob orci?

Can you imagine what that would go for at an auction!?

Wow, taken down on Sept. 11th? Coincidence?

Anyway, I’ve seen it in the gift shop several times. I hope that they fix her up nice this time, as I was never really impressed. I wished I had seen her in her prime in the 70s.

I also heard that the Smithsonian has the original Klingon ship as well, but in storage. Any chance they will eventually get that ship out and displayed as well?

I’ve never been to the Smithsonian, but would love to go one day. Now I’ll certainly wait until I know the Big E is back on display.

I have no issue with the model being at the Smithsonian, but Milestones of Flight??? There has to be a more appropriate display then that….

Wow, I was actually in DC on Friday, and considered going to the Air and Space Museum to check out the Enterprise (again). However, I was with my friend, who hates Star Trek with a passion (he’s kind of insane), so we went to the Lincoln Memorial instead. I’ll have to check out the new exhibit once it’s moved.

I finally got to see the original Enterprise miniature at the Smithsonian in 2009, and agree the old girl could use some work–her nacelles are hanging out of true, and the Mirecki paint job is something of a disaster. Still, for a lifelong fan of this franchise there’s no denying the power of just being in the presence of the thing–for me, it felt like being a Muslim on his first pilgrimage to Mecca.

For my money Boeing is just another godawful, soulless manufacturer of the instruments of death and destruction. But, I suppose I must thank them for this. :-)

One thing the story isn’t quite specific on: When exactly is the Enterprise expected to be returned to display? (Translation: Will I have to delay a trip to DC until 2016, or will the thing be back up sometime later in 2015?)

Some added trivia: The Science Fiction Museum (a.k.a. “Experience Music Project”) in Seattle Center has an Enterprise model that, I think, is the one that was used in the DS9 “Trials and Tribbleations” episode. It got signed — in very big handwriting — by Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig when the 40th anniversary Star Trek convention was held there.

@12 David G.The Smithsonian article gives a date of July 2016 for the Hall’s reopening. I suppose it might show up before then , but any earlier date is a wait and see I guess.

I wonder what ever happened to the 3 foot model from Requiem for Methuselah?

Dont drop it !,,


I saw her when she was hanging in the “Life in the Universe” display … beautiful to be able to look up and see the Enterprise!

I miss DC, and the Smithsonian ….

Anybody know what color/shade the original model is?

This seems to indicate they are more focused on conservation than restoration. This tells me the look of the model will likely remain the same and it will not have its Ed Miarecki restoration change din any way. @David G, – I read it will be an 18 month project.So I would guess it will go on display around March 2016.

I do hope it stays on ground level as well for close up viewing.

#17. These books were a help to me:

Also, there are tons of resources out there on the original paint schemes of most the studio models.

#14 – The wherabouts of the three foot Enterprise model are (unfortunately) currently unknown.

Dear Smithsonian Air and Space Museum,
Please take good care of that beautiful lady. Give her all the love and attention she needs.

For all you’ve done, are doing and will do for her,

thank you,

I know #9 Phil was wondering why the Enterprise is going into the milestones of flight hall BUT but…

The USS Enterprise (and no one ever makes note of this remarkable fact) is the ONLY piece of fiction going into that display!

The USS Enterprise and Star Trek are clearly important enough (and not just in our minds and hearts) to be the only piece of fiction to be displayed in that hall! How amazing is that?

If that doesn’t tell you how influential Star Trek is/was then I don’t know what will.

I’ve seen the model many, many times since the museum opened and feel a certain level of awe, even though it is rather old.

What would be really cool is Paramount had donated the movie Enterprise to the museum instead of auctioning it off. Now, that model, when properly lit up would look especially cool in contrast to the TV Enterprise, even though its roughly half its size.

Maybe one day, the owner of the movie Enterprise model will donate it to the Smithsonian, where it can be shared with others.

No wonder I never saw it! I was looking for it when I was there earlier this year but never went into the gift shop. That’s a weird place to put it, to be honest….

22 sisko, Agreed; “Star Trek” has inspired so many people to pursue real-life scientific, astronomic, astrophysics, aeronautic, and astronautic careers, it seems entirely appropriate to me!

It would be interesting to see a list of all the scientists and others inspired by “Star Trek” to pursue their careers.


I think the original paint was an automotive gray of some sort, but the model sometimes took on a bluish green appearance. Funnily enough, the 6 ft model of the Enterprise D was painted a light blue/ duck egg blue but took on a gray appearance when filmed.

I have photos I took of the model on Smithsonian visits from 1982 (I think she was hanging above an escalator) and 2006 (in the new Gift Shop), if anyone is interested. In 2006, she definitely looked like she had seen better days or had been touched up by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.

And that picture of the Big E being moved past the Apollo 11 Command Module… wow! I’ll have to find a reason to go back to the NASM in 2016 (the 50th anniversary of the museum, by the way.)

I am a bit said they’re moving the Apollo Lunar Module. I loved it sitting in that place of honor in the atrium at the east end of the museum. Now she’ll be lost in the crowd.

(sorry, 40th anniversary)

@25. By itself, if there was a display of influential science fiction, I’d have no issue with the good ship Enterprise being displayed with the fanciful creations of Jules Verne, Stanley Kubrick, et al., as a part of Milestones of Flight. However, we live in an age now where twenty five percent of Americans now doubt that we landed on the moon, so it’s a problem to further dilute reason and intelligence by displaying the fake Enterprise, a fake milestone in flight, among all the other displays commemorating real milestones.

At the point, the folks at the Smithsonian aren’t a bunch of dummies, so I’m hopeful they’ll give Trek her due in an appropriate fashion….

Besides the paint job, there are some other issues to be addressed. The navigational deflector is not original, and the nacelles are probably in need of being reinforced so they don’t droop anymore. I think that we can all agree that we’d love to see her restored to the original studio set-up.

Part of me wants them to fully detail the port side, but that would take away from the purity of the studio model.

First saw the model back in 1976! I have a photo somewhere of it hanging from the ceiling.

I actually really liked the location in the gift shop. She was right up close. You might not hit the whole museum, but your kids NEVER miss the gift shop!

Also, I hated the stupid paint job. I’ve seen better work on graffiti-ed subway cars. Seriously, whoever signed off on that travesty of spray paint should have been fired. Memo to Smithsonian; don’t waste everyone’s time and half-ass this. Paint it correctly, have lots of nice information placards, and don’t muck up the display with “newer” versions of the Enterprise.

#29. Phil – September 15, 2014

Perhaps a good compromise would be a “Milestones in Time Travel” Exhibit?

Yeah, the restoration from 2000 left much to be desired. I remember reading an interview with the guy who restored it, discussing some of the decisions he made for the overall appearance of the Enterprise (a pencil was used for the lines that appear on the saucer section) and it was apparent that he was not the right guy for the job. When I finally got to see it on display it was easy to see why so many fans hated the restoration and I had to wonder: Why didn’t they hire someone like Greg Jein to restore the Enterprise?

I can’t tell you how absolutely thrilled I am that the Enterprise has been moved from the totally obscure and hard-to-find gift shop BASEMENT (no one else has pointed out that little nugget, as far as I’ve seen). There was no signage anywhere outside the gift shop that suggested anything of historical value was inside, let alone downstairs. It’s worth waiting a year and a half (or more) to see our friend in a much more common area, where more are likely to see her.

So it is going on display all shiny in time for the new movie and 50th anniversary for Star Trek. I have a feeling NBC may have a hand in this. That said, I am glad she is getting work done as I want to see her again. I saw her in 98 but I do not remember much about it.

Greg Jein was actually one of the professionals that helped Miarecki do the restoration.

What about the new sci-fi museum in Hollywood? Wouldn’t that be a fitting spot?

“Some added trivia: The Science Fiction Museum (a.k.a. “Experience Music Project”) in Seattle Center has an Enterprise model that, I think, is the one that was used in the DS9 “Trials and Tribbleations” episode. It got signed — in very big handwriting — by Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig when the 40th anniversary Star Trek convention was held there.”

Actually, I believe that miniature is one of the limited run commissioned by the now-defunct Master Replicas. SF author Robert Sawyer owns one, and one also toured with the Star Trek Exhibition back in the day. I’m happy to say that I have one of them myself. It’s awesome.


Nope. That six foot miniature is indeed the shooting model from Trials and Tribbleations. I’ve seen it several times myself and there is a placard that stated the same. I have not been back to the Sci-Fi museum in about two years as they took everything cool out and replaced it with the Avatar display (which was OK-just not Trek). Paul Allen, who owns the EMP and Sci Fi museum, also owns the Enterprise D (the big filming model) which was on display, and from what I understand the Refit, which has not been o display. I keep waiting for a REAL Star Trek display with these iconic ships. The original Captain’s chair from TOS is there along with some bridge railing and some of the bridge control panels from the work stations, a Spock and a Kirk uniform tunic, phasers, communicators, etc. Really mind-blowing stuff.

I saw her in 84…she was majestic then……and remains so in spirit.

@39 —

Thanks for the correction. I’d love to see the Jein model myself, but would have no room for such a monster in my little house. He’ll, I don’t display my MR Enterprise model for lack of space, and it’s half the size.

My understanding is that Ben Stiller owns the TMP ship. Can anyone confirm?

Nope, the Enterprise D (the six footer without all the bumps and surface detail) that was originally built for TMP is in the Paul Allen Collection. Saw it for myself at the Sci-Fi museum. It, like the TOS Enterprise when it was originally installed at the Smithsonian, hangs from the ceiling, albeit from it’s filming support and not with hooks screwed into the model itself as the Enterprise was back in the day. It is a gorgeous model and in great shape.

“Nope, the Enterprise D (the six footer without all the bumps and surface detail) that was originally built for TMP is in the Paul Allen Collection.”

Huh?? I think you’re confusing TMP (The Motion Picture) with TNG. Either that, or I’m not getting you at all.

I was referring, of course, to the six-foot miniature of the refitted Enterprise used in all of the TOS films. To the best of my knowledge Stiller bought it at auction for 250K–but again, I (or my source) might be wrong about that.

(That said, I wouldn’t mind taking a gander at the ‘D’ either, though I never cared much for the design.)

My mistake. That’s what I get for browsing on my phone. You are absolutely correct and it is I who am in error. I still thought that Paul Allen owned the Refit, though. If Stiller owns it then it is a sad day, since it will probably never be displayed so that fans could see it.

Interesting side note about the Sci-Fi museum:

For a while they had the little AMT Enterprise model that was seen outside Baris’ office window on the K7 in “Trouble With Tribbles”, so that;s as close as I have ever gotten to the TOS Enterprise.

Kinda ironic and iconic, that the original big e, a work of fiction, no matter how influential, is being displayed with real history making flight technology, when at the late great star trek: the experience, the adventures of our trek history was merged with nasa real tech, in the history of the future museum, on their timeline exhibit which meandured thru the entire museum..which is doing the same thing, but opposite,and they did so much work updating that timeline too…that and the models were the most awe inspiring parts of the museum….still cant believe its gone…

I had the pleasure of seeing the USS Entperprise at the Smithsonian when I visited the USA a couple of years ago and it was one of the highlights of my trip!! :-)

#43. Michael Hall – September 17, 2014

So he got it with NCC-1701-A numbering?

Supposedly this is from the auction:

But maybe it’s just wear and tear from old age but some of it seems to bear battle damage marks. Wasn’t that a separate model?

I read that the model has been x-rayed and it’s been determined that it cannot be hung without damaging.

An excellent reason to visit the museum again! I haven’t been there since 1991.