If you are nerd-type person, then there is an excellent chance you have a collection of a lot of stuff from a favorite thing, like a comic or a video game or a movie series.
If you are nerd-type person, then there is an excellent chance you have a collection of a lot of stuff from a favorite thing, like a comic or a video game or a movie series.If it is a massive collection of sports memorabilia, you might actually be a jock-type person, but who am I to judge? In any case, I’m willing to bet my last Imperial Credit that at some point in time, a friend, a family member or a significant other has cleverly quipped, “You should open up a museum.”
This is a story about a guy who actually opened his own museum. About his collection of Star Wars stuff. Well, more about the museum than the guy.
Road-tripping our way to visit family last Thanksgiving week, Karin and I stopped overnight in Hot Springs, Arkansas to knock another National Park off the list. As we waited for the hotel elevator, my eyes scanned the travel brochures. Oh… What’s this?
What fascinated me wasn’t that it was an unofficial Star Wars museum, but that it was an unofficial Star Wars museum that misspelled Jabba on their brochure. That’s like saying “Meet Luce Skywalker!” or “See frozen Hans Solo!” (In their defense, another pocket in the rack had a set of brochures with Jabba printed correctly.)
I could not pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! The next day, I would visit THE GALAXY CONNECTION! Karin elected to stay behind and explore the shops and art galleries in downtown Hot Springs. Even though she likes Star Wars, she had no interest in moseying through Jaba’s dungeon.
Not more than 10 minutes from Hot Springs National Park, the Galaxy Connection resides in a small, inconspicuous building, save for the starships painted on the outside. Inside, you’re greeted with a little but respectably stocked collectables shop.
he museum walk-through was guided by a friendly, very enthusiastic gentleman. I don’t know if flannel shirt/T-shirt/jeans is the official museum uniform, but it certainly said I AM A STAR WARS NERD. As luck would have it, I’d packed a Star Wars T-shirt in my suitcase and I wore it for this momentous occasion. I fit right in.
The first stop in the museum was… a Stormtrooper. Along with the Death Star-inspired boilerplate paint job on the wall were some Death Star set sketches and blueprints. The tour guide spoke about all manner of Trooper trivia and talked about the 501st Legion and how one joins. The two families on the tour with me found it interesting, especially the children. From there, we turned the corner and found ourselves on the bridge of what I assume to be Darth Vader’s Super Star Destroyer, the Executor. Oh, and Darth Vader was there, too.
The tour guide gave out some great bits of trivia about Vader, his design and his origins. It also amazes me that there are people who still think James Earl Jones was inside the costume. Even more amazing, the guide remained cheerful and unflappable when one of the kids started waving a plush alligator in his face like it was a lightsaber.
Next, we moseyed through the now infamous Jaba’s dungeon.
To my disappointment, there were no half-naked Twi’lek dancers. However, the guide spoke of the neutral mercenary lives of Han Solo and Boba Fett (who was also in the dungeon). He got a bit Joseph Campbell here, which was pretty cool. Also, the kids on the tour seemed quite amazed to discover that some of the Jawas in the movies were portrayed by children.
Finally, we found ourselves on Dagobah, with Pepsi contest Yoda. And again, with these kids… totally blown away by the fact that Yoda, Grover and Miss Piggy are all played by the same guy. Well, DUH!
The last room was the collectables room, absolutely covered in Star Wars merchandise. Dioramas, a TV playing old Kenner spots, a rack holding every type of toy lightsaber ever made (except for the inflatable flashlight one), even an Early Bird kit. I didn’t get a picture here because I was too busy looking at stuff. Really, THIS was the best part.
To sum it all up: Yes, the Galaxy Connection is a bit hokey. Yes, the information and trivia is already well-known to dedicated Star Wars fans. But what it does have is an undeniable charm. You can feel the dedication, effort and care that went into creating the place, misspelled brochures be damned.
To the average person, they may see a low-budget tourist trap. Me? I see a hardcore Star Wars fan’s labor of love. This museum was made by the type of nerd who wants others to experience the same sense of joy and wonder he/she gets out of a beloved something-or-other. And that adds a layer of detail you can’t buy at prop store.
Later that week, in Tennessee with my family, my siblings and I watched the teaser trailer for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens on Friday. Amid my own geeky excitement, I thought for a brief moment about The Galaxy Connection.
Man, I bet they were flipping the f*ck out over there.
Erik has planned the perfect Christmas for his family. The plan is foolproof, bulletproof and flame retardant. Nothing can undo the hours of planning and preparation. Nothing but odd-shaped packages, ill-timed fruitcakes and an errant neighborhood Santa Claus. Get it now and have a Merry Christmas.