One of my favorite places on our planet is having a birthday!

Today the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC is celebrating its 165th birthday. The Smithsonian is actually a complex of 19 FREE museums, a zoo, and nine research center facilities, and with over 136 million items in its vast collection is considered the largest museum complex in the world. Many of its individual museums are clustered together on the National Mall in downtown Washington, DC, and as a child growing up in Virginia I lived close enough to be able to visit there often. Discovering that August 10 was the Smithsonian’s 165th birthday started me reminiscing about one of the most entertaining exhibits I have ever seen inside its hallowed halls.

Five years ago I was lucky enough to view two major characters from the Star Wars films in person for the very first time while they were on temporary loan to the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum. Both R2-D2 and C-3PO were part of the “Treasures of American History” exhibit, a collection of over 150 “essential” artifacts moved to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum during 2006-2008 while their usual home next door at the Museum of American History was undergoing a complete renovation. For the two years they lodged in their temporary display at NASM, these famous droids were just an arm’s length away from throngs of excited museum visitors like myself. All of us were thrilled to get an up close and personal look at these enormously popular figures from scifi movie history.

Created by Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas, the human-like R2-D2 and C-3PO are among the most famous of all scifi robots and remain a very popular exhibit to this day. Now that they’ve returned to their permanent home at the NMAH, they can most usually be found on display on the museum’s lower level by the entrance on Constitution Avenue. And it’s a joy to watch both young and old visitors eyes’ light up when they catch sight of the models.

Of course, the current NMAH’s “National Treasures of Popular Culture” exhibit is full of all sorts of other popular entertainment artifacts from movies and TV, including the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz, the original Muppet character Kermit the Frog created in 1955 by Jim Henson, and props from TV shows like Happy Days and All in the Family. But scifi fans will probably be more excited to discover items on display like an original 1938 “Action Comics” featuring Superman or the the Egg from Alien created by designers H. R. Giger and Michael Seymour. Additional scifi movie props from Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the Transformers movies can also be found on exhibit at the Air & Space Museum Annex in Dulles, Virginia.

And hey, if you’re interested in building your very own droid, be sure to check out Astromech.net, the official website of R2 D2 Builders Club.

Happy 165th Birthday, Smithsonian!

Cross-posted from my report at SciFi4Me.com.

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One Response to One of my favorite places on our planet is having a birthday!

  1. Jim DeSantis says:

    YES! I want to build a droid.

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