Sci-fi fans plan museum for Washington — and want your help

John Kelly
Columnist November 4, 2013

The coming alien invasion was being planned in a typical Washington conference room in a typical downtown office building on a typical Monday morning.

Everyone around the conference table looked remarkably — even suspiciously — human. At least three of us were.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

The other three — the ones who had called the meeting — I’m not so sure about. They told me their names were Greg, Phil and David.

They appeared human — I couldn’t detect any seams where an artificial carapace covered their lizard (or insectoid [or possibly protoplasm]) bodies — but I suspect they had been meticulous in their preparation, for their ambition is nothing less than this: to enslave the entire planet.

Oh, and also to open in Washington by 2017 what they claim will be the world’s first museum devoted exclusively to science fiction.


Phil Smith, Greg Viggiano and David Hart, some of the organizers behind an effort to open a science fiction museum in Washington. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)

That’s ostensibly what the meeting at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, a commercial real estate advisory firm at 18th and I streets NW, was about: scoping out possible locations for the museum, which on Monday announced itself with an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. A group of volunteers is hoping to raise $160,000 by Dec. 11. They will use that money to build a 3,000-square-foot preview museum somewhere in the District to test their concept, followed by a 50,000-square-foot permanent museum.

The mini museum will include a scale model of the USS Enterprise from “Star Trek,” a facsimile of Dr. Who’s Tardis and a device for surreptitiously implanting alien spawn in the chest cavities of unsuspecting visitors.

Okay, the blueprints I saw on Monday didn’t mention the alien spawn thing, but come on, people, what else could be going on? Are we really supposed to believe that a bunch of D.C.-area science-fiction fans with no real gallery-building experience are seriously attempting to conjure up a cool state-of-the-art museum out of nothing but their own enthusiasm?

That’s their story, anyway. The Museum of Science Fiction’s executive director, Greg Viggiano, lives in Old Town Alexandria and does consulting in the IT and telecom fields. “I can remember playing with the kids in the school yard in 1969 and reenacting different episodes of ‘Star Trek,’ ” he said. This is when he was growing up on Alpha Centauri. (Or Westchester, N.Y. My notes are hard to read.)

Phil Smith, the museum’s chief curator, is a senior analyst with a Northern Virginia consulting firm that does work in the aerospace and telecom fields. He’s also an accomplished sci-fi artist and a volunteer docent at the National Air and Space Museum. His dream is to have a full-size Millennium Falcon in the Museum of Science Fiction.

David Hart, director of project management, does government contracting work. He loved going to car shows as a kid and was always drawn to the concept vehicles that appeared in science fiction.

Mandy Sweeney, the museum’s vice president of museum operations, did not attend Monday’s meeting, but I communicated with her earlier in the day via a small handheld device. She’s a consultant like Phil and has worked on NASA’s strategic plan. I asked her why Washington was a good place for a science-fiction museum.

“Next time you see [a science-fiction movie] set in our nation’s capital, pay attention to what the leaders are doing, because you can learn a lot about leadership and how leaders make decisions in tough crisis situations,” she said.

Typically, when the aliens arrive, she said, the president has to quickly decide whether they are friend or foe. Said Mandy: “They don’t have anything to support or go against a particular choice: Be nice to the aliens or blow them up? Well, we can look at that as a case study. . . . Science fiction is really powerful for exploring the way leaders are effective.”

Of course, what Mandy didn’t say is that a science-fiction museum in Washington would be the perfect cover for replacing the president with a lizard/insectoid/protoplasm puppet.

On Monday, Newmark’s Scott Johnston described various buildings from the D.C. waterfront to NoMa that could house the museum.

Can they really work quickly enough to open the preview space next year and the full museum three years later?

“We’re moving at warp speed,” Newmark’s Patrick Nalls said, appropriately.

It all sounds lovely. The Web site Greg and company have created — www.museumofsciencefiction.org — looks really cool, with a bunch of neat illustrations.

So by all means, people of Earth, go to the Indiegogo Web site, watch the slick video, donate money, help build the Museum of Science Fiction, be complicit in your own destruction.

If you give $50, you get a collectible mug, magnet and a free probe.

Okay, it doesn’t mention the probe, but come on . . .

john.kelly@washpost.com

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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