Things to Do

A Brief History of DC’s Star Wars Fandom

Darth Vader in front of the Death Star. Photograph by Flickr user Andrew Turner.

The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first installment of Disney’s open-ended resurrection of the fantasy series, prompted the National Air and Space Museum to dedicate its Imax theater to the movie for an entire month. If you think that’s an unusual display of affection toward Star Wars, though, you’re wrong. Unbeknown to many, DC is actually a Star Wars shrine, perhaps more in love with the George Lucas mega-franchise than Philadelphia is with Rocky. In honor of the sequels and spinoffs being released at a yearly clip, here are some of the ways that Washington has proved its fandom.

“Star Wars: The Magic of Myth” exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum

This 1997 exhibit, which traced the Star Wars narrative through meticulously recreated sets and movie artifacts, stands as the Air and Space museum’s single most popular exhibition in its history. “It’s very important for us to attract young people to the museum,” says the museum’s communications director, Claire Brown. “Movies like Star Wars are indicative of the importance of space in popular culture.”

“Treasures of American History” at National Museum of American History

R2-D2 and C-3PO were natural fits among this 2006 exhibition centered around original items of American iconography, which also included Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Thomas Edison’s lightbulb, and Kermit the Frog.

National Cathedral

This is a weird one. In the 1980s, the National Cathedral held a sculpture competition for children, and Christopher Rader of Kearney, Nebraska came in third place with his depiction of Darth Vader. The Cathedral then turned his drawing into a carving, which now can be found (with binoculars) on the northwest tower.

Photograph by Flickr user Jamie McCaffrey.

Nationals Park

Earlier this summer, on July 19, the Nationals held Star Wars Day at the ballpark, encouraging fans to dress up as characters from the film while supplying themed photo stations, face-painting booths, and R2-D2 shaped coozies. The concept didn’t help the team, though, as the Nationals lost 5-0 to the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaving everyone to wonder whether the lightsaber ban had caused too great a disturbance in the Force.

Museum of Science Fiction (TBD)

The museum is still being developed and crowdfunded, but many signs point to it being heavily focused on Star Wars-related content—a promo video includes a replica of C-3PO and an interactive game involving an X-Wing Starfighter. The Museum of Science Fiction team also dispatched costumed Imperial Stormtroopers to help advertise the initial project back in 2013.