Frequently Asked Questions

Image credit: Shume

Image credit: Shume

1. How did this project get started?

In the spring of 2013, Executive Director Greg Viggiano began polling interest in creating a museum dedicated to science fiction in Washington, DC. The response continues to be very enthusiastic. Greg quickly found many people willing to share their professional expertise, resources, and time to drive the project forward.

Within a few months, a nonprofit 501c(3) organization was established with a diverse team of 38 volunteers working to accomplish the first key milestones and a long-term plan for making the Museum a reality — making significant progress on everything from curatorial aspects such as gallery design and visitor experience to the nonprofit management areas of development, project management, education, information technology, public relations, marketing, finance, accounting, and legal compliance.

As of September 2014, the team numbers over 140 industry professionals—all volunteering their time.

The team is divided across five key areas: Museum Staff, Legal Team, Board Members, Project Teams, and Subcommittee Members. Standing subcommittees are made up of senior industry professionals and are responsible for planning and advising the museum on the following areas:

  1. Capital Campaign
  2. Curatorial
  3. Education
  4. Finance | Accounting | Tax
  5. Model Construction
  6. Programs
  7. Technology
  8. Visitor Experience

The museum has 17 active teams working on the following projects:

  1. Capital campaign
  2. Marketing and public relations
  3. Mobile application | prototype design and development
  4. Robotic display object operational prototype
  5. Preview museum architectural design
  6. Website redesign
  7. Business development and strategic partnerships
  8. Public relations and communications | newsletter | prospectus | marketing
  9. Special events and planning
  10. IT | web development, system administration, quality assurance, GUI art development
  11. Survey and visitor research
  12. Licensing and copyright research
  13. Corporate administration
  14. Economic feasibility, financial modeling, and revenue/cost analysis
  15. Photographic and image library development
  16. Grants and proposals
  17. Volunteer management

2. Why is science fiction compelling?

Science fiction closes the art-science gap. Perhaps Albert Einstein said it best: “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” In this sense, science fiction has the potential to transform, motivate, and educate. It can explore places where we can’t physically go — yet. It can help prepare us for what’s next as we examine its profound impact on our culture and society.

3. Why locate this museum in Washington, DC?

Establishing the Museum of Science Fiction in our nation’s capital underscores the importance of the genre, its preservation, and its influence. Locating the museum in Washington, DC will ensure high attendance from a diverse pool of international visitors. With a world-class community of museums in DC, the Museum of Science Fiction will be a natural fit, complementing the two Smithsonian Air and Space museums already in the area. Currently, the District of Columbia’s visitor traffic is estimated to be over 1.5 million visitors per month (50,000 people per day) with annual spending of $6.21 billion. By locating the museum in an area with such high visitor traffic, ticket prices and operational costs can be kept to a minimum.

4. Is this the first museum dedicated to science fiction?

Over the years, there have been a number of science fiction exhibits, many of which have traveled to multiple locations. Hopefully, those exhibits will continue. Unlike other past exhibitions however, the Museum of Science Fiction is the first comprehensive facility dedicated to the genre as a whole. Eventually, the Museum of Science Fiction would also like to put exhibits on the road to bring our programs to people outside the Washington, DC area.

5. When does the museum plan to open?

We plan to open the full-scale museum in late 2018. In the meantime, we will launch a small 4,000-square-foot preview facility—or preview museum—in late 2015. The Preview Museum will allow us to test exhibit concepts and share an insider’s look into the process of building the full-scale facility.

6. Why a preview museum? Isn’t there enough support for an all-out crowdfunded Museum of Science Fiction?

Our main purpose for the Preview Museum is just that: to give visitors a place to preview our programming and exhibits and a way to give us feedback. We feel strongly that involving visitors early in our development process will help us create a better experience for them. We want to hear their thoughts while we have flexibility to adjust plans to ensure that the visitor experience with the full-scale facility matches or exceeds expectations.

The Preview Museum is designed to give people a sneak peek of what’s coming. It will allow us to collect opinions and validate our planning activities and design assumptions to make sure we “get it right.” The preview museum will also allow us to begin our programming with lectures, discussion panels, film screenings, and special events.

We also plan to present our ideas on how interactive exhibits can be used as educational tools, with classroom materials (consistent with Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards) that teachers can integrate into their lesson plans.

The Preview Museum will also show donors how they might contribute to our efforts. Above all, we want our visitors to have fun—and maybe learn a few things along the way.

7. What’s the connection between real science and science fiction?

We have seen so many examples of ideas developed in science fiction that have become reality. The most obvious example is the cell phone. In the 1950s, such a communications device was outside the realm of possibility. These days, even children have cell phones.

Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

In this sense, science involves methods of inquiry that use experimentation and observation. Science fiction allows us to break from these confines with imagination, boldness, and creativity. Both science and science fiction are critical to solving the world’s most interesting unanswered questions.

8. What educational programs will be at the Museum?

The Museum of Science Fiction is committed to using science fiction as a tool to inspire interest in science, engineering, technology, math, art, history, literature, philosophy, and—ultimately— imagination. We believe science fiction is rich with ideas that can serve as a springboard for curiosity and learning—from understanding how warp drive might function to how cyborgs could affect our daily lives. We also believe science fiction holds value for all ages and backgrounds, and we will endeavor to tailor our education and outreach efforts to appeal to a wide range of visitors.

9. How far along is the project?

At this time, we are in the planning and fundraising stages to establish the museum. We expect to stay relatively on schedule to open the full-scale facility in late 2018.

10. Where will the Preview Museum be located?

We are beginning our site selection process now. Over the next six months, we plan to commit to a physical location in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

11. How much will the Museum cover fantasy?

Our curator and science fiction historians are working to answer that question. As a genre, science fiction is virtually boundless and includes the subgenre of science fantasy. We are looking to tell the story about science fiction’s beginnings, its evolution, and how it has influenced us. That story will include elements from other genres and subgenres, such as fantasy and horror. Our plan is to evenly represent the evolution and derivatives of science fiction.

Clarke's Third Law from Profiles of The Future states: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Based on this premise, perhaps there is no such thing as magic . . . we just might be too primitive to understand the science and technology behind a wand or a potion.

12. What can a visitor expect to see there besides spaceship replicas from TV or films?

The museum will be home to an array of objects and experiences that help us share the history of science fiction. Because science fiction is such a wide genre, our goal is to have a diverse collection of artifacts, display objects, and interactive exhibits that span many art forms. Visitors will look at classic manuscripts, interact with exhibits, and learn about robots, time machines, and aliens, in addition to costumes, sets, props, and models. Space vehicles are just the beginning.

13. How will this museum compare to the one in Seattle?

Paul Allen’s impressive collection of science fiction television and film props at the Experience Music Project (EMP Museum) is exhibited in a single gallery. For the Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC, we propose seven galleries: The Creators; Other Worlds; Vehicles; Time Travels; Aliens, Creatures, and Altered Life; Computers and Robots; and Technology. Each gallery will be balanced with artifacts and display objects to include television and film, music, art, literature, comics and video games (where appropriate). We plan to have several full-sized space vehicles in our galleries, as well as many wireless-enabled display objects for visitors to interact with using mobile devices.

14. Who is on your Board of Directors and Board of Advisors?

The Board of Directors is currently being formed. The Board of Advisors includes science fiction authors Greg Bear and David Brin, collector Adam Schneider, Melissa Conway (UC Riverside), Jane Frank (Frank Collection), Anna Holloway PhD, Greg Smith (American University), Jeff Rutenbeck PhD (American University), Mason Peck PhD (Cornell University), Debbie Myers, C. Alex Young PhD (NASA Goddard), and Mark Edward CPA (Chair). Other invitations are pending acceptance and will be communicated when we are able to announce new members.