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Gimme science fiction 

Out of This World showcases Hollywood’s greatest sci-fi artifacts at the Museum of Natural History

click to enlarge Indy has long been the gold standard of cool men; I think that jacket is the ticket.
  • Indy has long been the gold standard of cool men; I think that jacket is the ticket.

Dear sci-fi fans: All your dreams are coming true. Your best friends are coming to town: Captain Kirk, Darth Vader, Batman and Robin. They're all going to be at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History...sorry, they won't be. But their clothes will.

Opening this Friday and running until August 26, The Museum of Natural History will be hosting Out of This World: Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television. The exhibit is based out of the EMP Museum in Seattle and has travelled all over the United States, everywhere from Oshkosh to Kalamazoo but with a little luck and some excellent timing Jeff Gray---the curator at the Museum of Natural History---was able to snag a viewing.

"It was honestly one of those things," Gray says. "It was open just at the time we could take it and it all just worked out."

Now it might not seem to be a natural selection for a natural history museum to display movie costumes, it could be argued that Hollywood is in essence detached from the natural world. But Gray explains that the exhibit is meant to pique Haligonian interest in science fiction and outer space more generally.

Out of This World will be on exhibit in conjunction with the museum's Science on a Sphere solar system show.

"We have the only one in Canada." Gray says of Science on a Sphere, "It's a six foot round screen that runs on four projectors with a wide range of data. It shows live weather, it shows live earthquakes. It shows all these different things that happen on the earth but in addition to all those things it also shows the sun, the moon and all the planets of the solar system."

The museum will be showcasing the solar system on the sphere this summer and are hoping the Out of This World exhibit will get visitors excited about their world and the worlds beyond our planet.

As Gray points out, so many of the costumes in the exhibit are meant to be from faraway galaxies but end up imbued with our earthly perceptions.

"It is interesting that you start to look at all these costumes and how costumes are made, even if they are from different planets or they are other kinds of beings they're all still somehow rooted in our understanding of earth."

He uses Gorn, the lizard man from Star Trek as an example. "Our notions of lizards being scary inform us when we see him."

Beyond the strictly sci-fi costumes of Star Trek and Star Wars the exhibit also has artifacts from other well-loved classics, like the Wicked Witch of the West's hat from the Wizard of Oz and the leather jacket worn by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Gray concedes that the natural science connection of the exhibit is a little tenuous. "At some levels it's not natural history," Gray says. "But in the absence of a cultural museum in Halifax we sort of fill that void at times too."

And maybe this exhibit questions the definition of natural, maybe it expands on our view of the natural world as we see it. These fantastic depictions of potential worlds have a way of reflecting our world back to us. Maybe in peering into the clothes of those from galaxies far far away we will find a way to see ourselves---just as we are.

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