Buffalo State alumnus, grad students restore Star Trek’s USS Enterprise

Sara Ali, Staff Writer

Trekkies and Trekkers have a moment to look forward to within the Star Trek Universe. The Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum has taken on the Enterprise Project — the conservation of the classic USS Enterprise filming model built for the original Star Trek series.

Malcolm Collum, a ’95 graduate of SUNY Buffalo State’s art conservation program, is the lead conservator of the project. Collum has worked at the museum since 2008. His role is to bring the artifact back to how it looked in the second season of the series.

Like many children of the original Star Trek era, Collum said he remembers coming home from school, looking forward to watching reruns.

“To be able to work on something like this is pretty amazing,” he said. “It is something you would never imagine as a kid, that would you be able to work on something from the television series.”

Collum said the art conservation program helped prepare him for this project.

“It gives you a good foundation in material analysis,” he said. “It teaches us to see objects as their basic form. We understand how things deteriorate over time, and how to basically prevent this deterioration from continuing.”

Collum is no rookie on restoring cultural and historical artifacts. From his internship at the National Museum of Science and Industry in London, where he worked on 18th century scientific instruments, to his 12-year stint working on iconic civil rights artifacts at the Henry Ford Museum, he expressed great confidence in his role for the Enterprise Project.

Collum said a lot of scientific research would go into the decision-making process. With some of the original paint left on the top of the dish portion of the artifact, he said they have a reference point for the entire rest of the surface.

He said a lot of people were unhappy with the details added during the second season of the program, such as bold airbrushing.

“Our plan is to undo the heavy-handed restoration that was done 20 years ago,” he said.

Collum commented on the fact that writers and directors are still creating remakes of Star Trek.

“It speaks to the core themes that [Gene] Roddenberry was trying to convey in the original series – it wasn’t just about space exploration, it was all about human interactions and confronting interpersonal and dire problems… it’s a theme that carries on well into the future,” he said.

He said one of his favorite artifacts he preserved and was able to drive was the historic 1906 Locomobile racecar that won the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race.

“It represented the first time the Americans were able to beat the European manufacturers at an auto race,” he said.

Collum hired Ariel O’Connor, another graduate of the Buffalo State Art Conservation program, to assist with the project.

Coincidentally, the due date for the project will fall around the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series.

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