The USS Enterprise is, in popular imagination, a futuristic spaceship. The actual USS Enterprise model used on the Star Trek show is, in reality, a 50-year-old creaker that has endured at least one misguided new paint job. The Smithsonian is hard at work restoring the model, though, and they've even got the National Zoo's vet techs involved.
In an interview with TrekCore, the Smithsonian's conservator Margaret Weitekamp dropped some fascinating hints about how the restoration is going. The model was donated to the Smithsonian five years after the show was cancelled, and it had been on display at the Air and Space Museum. Earlier this year, they started to restore the sagging, stress-fractured model in earnest, boldly going where no conservator has gone before.
One of the first things the conservators did was bring in X-ray vet techs from the Smithsonian's National Zoo. Weitekamp explains TrekCore:
The Enterprise has been X-rayed before, but that was done by sending it out for analysis. This is an opportunity – since the Zoological Park team had a portable radiography unit – to bring the equipment in house and save us the trouble of having to move the model an additional time.
It was really interesting. You can get a good sense of the interior; all of the little penny nails and things like that. I'm excited to get some of that imagery back. It comes in very large files that are specific to the scanning system that they have; they are in the process of converting them to a more standardised image file that we can use when working with the model.
Ultraviolet photo of the spaceship model. Credit: Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum.
In the 90s, an earlier attempt to restore the model led to new detailing and paint, which is a big no-no in modern conservation. So now, the museum also has to figure out how to undo its own mistakes. More from Weitekamp at TrekCore:
The museum has been doing its own work and evaluation which has included using UV light to analyse the paint, and to figure out where we have clearly repainted areas and where we have areas that seem to be more uniform in their paint. The top of the saucer section, for example, leads us to believe that it is original paint – it all fluoresces in the same way.
There's plenty more to nerd out over at TrekCore. As for the model itself, expect to see it on display again in its former glory in 2016, just in time for the original series' 50th anniversary. [TrekCore]