Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service


Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.


Star Wars: The Magic of Myth

"Myth"--the word conveys images of Mount Olympus or the Seven Immortals, not droids, space ships, Jedi knights, and lightsabers. But what is a myth other than a story that shares experiences about the world, about adventures, about growing up, about making choices, about the wonderful, wise, and strange? A myth is a story that resonates because the story is full of metaphors that help us deal with the present, communicating through people, places, and events that never were but which have meaning today. By that definition, the Star Wars films are modern myths.

From the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Star Wars: The Magic of Myth explored the mythical message of Luke Skywalker's journey from his first call to adventure to his final victory. Showcasing models, costumes, props, and original artwork from the archives of Lucasfilm Ltd., the exhibition traced the Star Wars films-Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), and Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace-and how it presents the young Luke and other characters as archetypes from stories and legends.

Interpretive panels throughout the exhibition pointed out the mythological and literary elements that made Star Wars a newly cast epic. Drawing on the work of Joseph Campbell in his series The Power of Myth, the exhibition text identifies the classic characters of young hero, faithful companions, damsel in distress, wise guide, and others that enliven the saga.

The images of these characters, through artwork, costumes, and models, allows visitors to immerse themselves in a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars: The Magic of Myth drew visitors to view well-known artifacts arranged in the order they appeared in the original trilogy. The costumes of Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, and Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi were presented alongside the characters of Darth Vader, C-3PO (See-Threepio), R2-D2 (Artoo-Detoo), Chewbacca, Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett, and Yoda.

Production models, including an eight-foot-long production model of the Imperial Star Destroyer, and props, such as Darth Vader's and Luke Skywalker's lightsabers, are featured within the context of the exhibition. Large-scale photomurals serve as dramatic backdrops for many of the well-known costumes and characters. After following the artifacts through the trilogy's story line, the exhibition ended with objects from the new movie Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace; Anakin Skywalker as a young boy, Queen Amidala and her attendants, and Darth Maul.

This Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service exhibition toured from 1999-2003.





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