Books and Models, Read and Build

TOP: Photo Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. AMT and design are registered trademarks of Round 2, LLC. All rights reserved.

A vintage 18-inch plastic toy model of the USS Enterprise will join the 11-foot filming miniature used in production of the original Star Trek television series as a part of the Smithsonian’s newly renovated National Air and Space Museum.

The first of a series of phased reopenings will occur when the west end of the museum will open to the public on October 14 and include eight new and renovated galleries, along with the planetarium, museum stores and Mars Café .

The museum is undergoing a seven-year renovation that began in 2018 that includes a redesign of all 23 exhibitions and presentation spaces, a complete refacing of the exterior cladding, replacement of outdated mechanical systems and other repairs and improvements.

As part of these renovations, a built-up model kit from the 1960s of the starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek television show that aired on NBC from 1966-1969 has been added to a brand new gallery called “Nation of Speed: America’s Pursuit of Going.” Sponsored by Rolex, this new exhibit is a collaboration of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History and explores how the pursuit of speed has shaped Americans’ national identity. According to Smithsonian media representative Amy Stamm, “this new exhibit will explore the intersections among technology, business, culture and America’s popular quest for speed by showcasing various vehicles known for not just going fast but for going the fastest. Whether it be Mario Andretti’s Indy 500-winning race car, a motorcycle such as the one used by “Evel” Knievel or a spaceship like the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, all of these have served to inform us how speed has impacted popular culture and the public imagination.” This new exhibit will be on display for ten years and features not only the AMT Enterprise model but other space-themed models and toys that convey a sense of speed such as a toy Millennium Falcon and TIE Fighter from Star Wars and model airplanes from the Disney animated film Planes.

The AMT Enterprise model displayed in the new Nation of Speed exhibit is one that was originally manufactured in 1967 by the AMT Corporation of Troy, Michigan and is part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collections. The model was built and modified by serviceman Richard G. Van Treuren while serving aboard the naval aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). He donated the finished 18-inch model to the Smithsonian in 1973 but until now, it has not been displayed in public.

Fifty-five years ago, the AMT Corporation released the very first Star Trek model kit. Before the first episode aired of the new television series, the Michigan-based plastic model company brokered a deal to acquire the rights to manufacture model kits for the show. The first kit they produced was that of the starship Enterprise and models began to appear on store shelves beginning in April of 1967. The 18-inch model, which retailed for around $2, was a tremendous success selling well over a million copies in less than a year. Based upon the success of that first model, AMT decided to issue more kits tied to the series beginning with a model of the Klingon ship that began to hit store shelves during the summer of the following year. Both the Enterprise and Klingon ship models were highly successful having outsold and outlasted most other products of the original Star Trek franchise. To this day, they remain best sellers.

Photo by Dane Poland, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Image #NASM2016-02678-000002

In addition to the AMT model, the 11-foot production model of the USS Enterprise used in the filming of the original Star Trek television series will also return on October 14. After being placed in storage since 2019, the filming model will be displayed as part of the renovated Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall located in the south lobby of the museum. The original filming model has proven to be one of the most popular attractions at the Smithsonian since it was first put on display at the National Air and Space Museum in 1974. After undergoing various restorations, the most complete having been done in 2016 to mark the occasion of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, the model will now feature changes that help make it even more accurate to how it was first seen by television viewers over half a century ago. Gary Kerr, who worked on the Smithsonian’s 2016 restoration of the model, explains that “the blink rate on the side of the hangar bay was corrected, the sizes of some windows on the dorsal and one on the secondary hull were also corrected. The lone porthole on the starboard side of the saucer section won’t be illuminated and the lighting in the display case has been changed.” The filming model will be situated very close to where visitors last saw it before it was removed in 2019. “It remains one of the most popular and asked about artifacts in the museum” said Stamm, “so we wanted it to remain easily accessible on the main floor near the Independence Avenue entrance so that visitors will not have to search hard for it.”

“This is one of the most exciting times in the National Air and Space Museum’s history,” said Chris Browne, the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the museum. “When we open the first reimagined galleries, we hope all visitors are inspired by artifacts on display for the first time, favorite icons of aerospace presented in new ways and diverse storytelling.”

Only half of the building will open to the public on October 14. The rest of the museum will be closed as it continues to undergo renovations. Free timed-entry passes will be required for visitors to enter. Passes will be available on the museum’s website starting September 14. The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W.

In recognition of the AMT model’s 55th anniversary, myself along with a group of dedicated fans have begun producing a history of AMT’s Star Trek model kits. The end result will be the first of what we hope to be a series of three books chronicling the history of all the Star Trek model kits produced by AMT. As part of our effort, we have gathered photos showing fans and their early Star Trek models that were submitted to us during our research. Most of these pictures were taken shortly after the first AMT kits began appearing in stores during the late 1960s. These photos have a certain charm because they reflect a time when very few products were available to support a fan’s interest in their favorite television shows. To own a model the Enterprise, sagging warp engines and all, meant a lot.

In addition to the photos, contributors provided brief testimonials about their experiences with these early model kits. We assembled both these photos and their testimonials to produce a special anniversary collage poster. It took us a while, but we obtained permissions from the contributors to reprint their photos along with their stories. In addition, Round 2 LLC, the current license holder of AMT, also granted us permission to use the AMT logo, photos of the model and associated artwork for this special tribute.

We thought it only fitting that the poster along with a descriptive key be made available to download to everyone for free. Simply go to our website to download the files. The collage file is hires and designed to be printed as a 20×30-inch poster. We have found that most online digital printing services will allow you to easily post this file for them to print. They will then ship the finished print directly to your home all for a reasonable fee. We found Costco’s online digital printing service to be the best value. You can make a 20×30 photo print with lustre finish plus they will ship it anywhere in the U.S.

Enjoy the free poster and if you get a chance to visit the National Air and Space Museum this fall, make sure you stop and see the the 18-inch AMT Enterprise model along with the 11-foot production model.