(Buffalo, N.Y.) – It has been 50 years since the starship Enterprise took flight, when the original “Star Trek” television series debuted Sept. 8, 1966.
Now two SUNY Buffalo State professors, from the school’s art conservation program, are involved in a project to restore the 11-foot-long model of the Enterprise that was used on the popular show.
“I am a very big fan of the original series,” said Dr. Aaron Shugar, an expert in metallurgy who formerly worked at the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute.
The show aired from 1966 to 1969 and the iconic TV prop was used in the filming of all 79 episodes of “Star Trek.”
In 1974, the Enterprise was put on display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and now to mark the 50th anniversary of the show, a team of conservationists are working to restore this piece of television history.
The team is led by two Buffalo State graduates who currently work at the Smithsonian. The school is home to one of just four art conservation programs in the country.
Through those contacts, Shugar and Dr. Rebecca Ploeger, an expert in polymers and synthetics, became involved in the project.
“I was a mega super crazy fan growing up,” said Ploeger, who formerly worked at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
She said she always made sure to watch “Star Trek: the Next Generation” every Saturday night during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“On the school (play) ground, my friends and I would play ‘Star Trek,’” Ploeger said. “I was pretty obsessed.”
So both Ploeger and Shugar expressed excitement when they first learned they would be working on the restoration of the Enterprise.
“I wrote everyone I knew or called them and said ‘I got the email I’ve been waiting for my entire life,’” said Ploeger. “It was a very special moment. I was very excited.”
Ploeger and Shugar have been working with samples from the Enterprise in their lab in Rockwell Hall to determine the best way to proceed with the restoration.
“The work they’re doing is quite extensive. Our conservators work very hard to do a technical analysis of material to understand its history and maybe what it originally looked like and how people may have restored it since then,” said Shugar.
He said the Enterprise has undergone analysis to determine how it was manufactured and to investigate any previous restorations that have taken place, including the times it may have been repainted.
“They’re looking to see the original paint and bring it back to its original glory,” said Shugar.
“As every cultural material over time can degrade and some parts need to be replaced or upgraded. I think it’s getting an overhaul,” said Ploeger. “I think they’re changing the lights and just cleaning it up and getting it ready.”
* Producer Brett Ballachino contributed to this report.