Interview: Greg Viggiano, Executive Director of The Museum Of Science Fiction

Greg Viggiano DC_smaller

A few weeks ago the Museum of Science Fiction Indiegogo crowd funding project was launched; an audacious plan to place science fiction smack in the middle of our nation’s capital. It seemed a fitting location to me as the US is arguably one of the birthplaces of the genre – not to mention so much of our history and progress being reliant upon technology, innovation and looking towards the future, all themes embodied by our beloved genre. I contacted the principals to find out more and was put in touch with the project’s Executive Director, Greg Viggiano.

Amazing Stories Magazine: What led to the genesis of this project? Why the desire to build a museum devoted to science fiction?

Museum of Science Fiction Executive Director Greg Viggiano: There are museums across the United States that feature science fiction elements and highlight the genre’s artistic and cultural contributions, but there is no single museum dedicated to comprehensively showcasing science fiction. That realization sparked all that’s happening now.

The growing ranks of professionals who are donating their time and talents to develop the Museum of Science Fiction strongly believe science fiction warrants its own institution It’s a part of human nature and American culture to make places for what is important to us. And for us — and our supporters — science fiction is incredibly important, inspiring and influential.

ASM: Are you not satisfied with the EMP Museum? Is this a case of more is better, or are there issues and subjects you wish to address that EMP Museum is not adequately handling?

GV: We have great respect for the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle and applaud the remarkable job they’ve done in presenting various aspects of contemporary popular culture, including science fiction. And while EMP features science fiction, it is not a museum solely dedicated to the topic quite the way that the Museum of Science Fiction will be. We feel there’s much more that can be explored and presented specific to science fiction.

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A sample layout of the “preview space” museum.

There are seven proposed galleries for the Museum of Science Fiction: The Creators; Other Worlds; Vehicles; Time Travel; Bio; Computers and Robots; and Technology. Each gallery will be balanced with artifacts and display objects that will include, as appropriate, television and film, music, art, literature, video games, and other media.

Photo Credit: Steve Neill. No self-respecting SF museum is complete without its own NCC 1701

One of the greatest aspects of this genre is that no single, authoritative definition of “science fiction” exists. Some core concepts are central to the genre, and many variations and offshoots have developed over time. This is why the Museum of Science Fiction does not restrict the definition of “science fiction.”

ASM: What (in terms of the museum) do you believe to be your message about SF to a general public?

Perhaps the most important message we intend for people to take away from their time at the Museum of Science Fiction is that science fiction closes the art-science gap. Albert Einstein perhaps said it best: “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

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.

The history of science fiction is broad and has had far-reaching influence on our society. Science fiction needs to be preserved, appreciated, and shared.

ASM: Will you have permanent exhibits (if so, what) or rotating ones?

Photo Credit: Mark Elkins AT-ATs from Star Wars

GV: We anticipate the Museum of Science Fiction will offer a mix of permanent and temporary exhibits. This tried-and-true approach used by museums across the world allows the showcasing of iconic artifacts viewable only at the museum, such as The Spirit of St. Louis at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, while keeping things fresh for our more frequent visitors. After all, science fiction history is in the past, but it is also in the making. Unlike other historic periods, the age of science
fiction is far from over.

While it’s too early to go into details about which exhibits will be permanent and which will be temporary, there will be a healthy variety.

ASM: Are you planning to provide exhibits that relate the history of science fiction? If so, which basic theory do you subscribe to: that it began as fantasy as far back as the Epic of Gilgamesh, or that it really derived from gothics with the advent of Shelley?

GV: Sharing the history — and showing the development — of science fiction across time is one of our curatorial priorities. Whether the Museum of Science Fiction identifies a “starting point” or “first work,” per se, is a decision that has yet to be made. But it’s fairly clear to us that works of science fiction have been part of our artistic expressions in various forms for many centuries.

Photo Credit: Jim Key. Spindrift ship from Land of the Giants

The role that audiences play in supporting and furthering art forms, whether that art form is Shakespearean productions or science fiction, is worthy of inclusion in any museum. We’ll be taking a look at how to best represent that aspect in the Museum of Science Fiction.

ASM: Will there be an exhibit related to Amazing Stories/Hugo Gernsback?  (Well, I had to ask; after all both are important to our history)

GV: One of the things that’s important to note about the Museum of Science Fiction is that just one visit on one day cannot even come close to viewing an all-inclusive presentation of this genre’s amazingly rich and varied heritage. That’s why we’ll offer temporary exhibits, guest lectures and more that help round out all the material that’s curated for consumption. So, with that in mind… Will there be an Amazing Stories exhibit at our preview museum? I’m not sure, though Howard and Jane Frank are loaning art from their collection which certainly features a number of Amazing Stories covers. And will there be an Amazing Stories lecture? Consider yourself invited to give one, Steve.

Fundraising is still on-going at Indiegogo;  if you would like to learn more and help support the project, visit their Indiegogo page.

You can also visit the project’s website for additional background, information, sample layouts and more images of their models and proposed exhibits.  Museum of Science Fiction.

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