Museums are nerd heaven. Maybe it’s because of the wealth of knowledge within their walls just waiting to be discovered. Maybe it’s the musty smell of ancient artifacts and antiques. Maybe it’s the exhibit space itself, which always proves to spark wonder in the people walking through it. Whatever the lure, many a nerd has happily whiled away the hours inside museum halls.
In recent years, some of our favorite movies and video games have been turned into traveling exhibits. Science centers, pop culture galleries, state museums, even the Smithsonian, have been temporary homes to these treasures. In addition to the typical priceless pieces of art and artifacts, you will now find equally precious props from your favorite science-fiction movies or an Atari VCS displayed under glass.
Here are five fantastic science-fiction, fantasy and gaming exhibits currently on tour. Catch ’em while you can.
1. The Art of Video Games
The Art of Video Games first started its U.S. tour at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The exhibit is small – it only filled one room when I saw it in person at Seattle’s EMP Museum – but it packs a lot of gaming goodness into the small space.
Inside the exhibit, gamers of all ages will find something to “oooh” and “ahhh” at as they peruse walls lined with consoles displayed in chronological order. It is a little disconcerting to see the NES as a museum relic, but the Xbox 360 is nearby, too, so don’t worry: You’re not that old. Yet.
Concept and cover art from over 80 games are included in the exhibit, along with developer interviews and five playable games including Flower and Super Mario Bros. The Art of Video Games describes itself as the exploration of “the 40-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium.”
A full schedule of the tour dates can be found at The Art of Video Games. The exhibit is currently in Phoenix and continues its U.S. tour through 2016.
2. Harry Potter: The Exhibition
Accio broom! You might not be able to summon Harry Potter’s broom to your waiting hand, but you will be able to see it yourself in the Harry Potter: The Exhibition tour.
When you first step in, you’ll find the Sorting Hat waiting to tell one or two lucky kids which house they’re destined for. (Go, Ravenclaw!) After being sorted, it’s time to step into the halls of Hogwarts. Inside you’ll see props and costumes from all eight films, including Quidditch gear, artwork, professors’ robes and a replica of Harry’s dormitory room.
Hogwarts might not be real, but there is something magical about standing close to Harry Potter’s glasses and Professor Snape’s robes. I may have had a tear in my eye when we first walked into the Great Hall.
Harry Potter: The Exhibition is currently in Roppongi, Japan until the end of the year. Muggles in New York City, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and more have already been treated to the exhibit. Here’s hoping that the tour returns to the U.S. in the near future.
3. Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination
Hey, you got your science in my sci-fi! Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination is another traveling museum exhibit with movie props, but this one focuses on the science behind the technology of the films. There are stations to explore topics like robotics, space exploration and engineering that will keep the kids occupied while you try to take a selfie with the wampa.
You can even walk into the life-size replica of the Millennium Falcon cockpit and yell, “Punch it!” as loud as you like.
Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination features props, models, and costumes from all six Star Wars films. Seeing them in person gives you a sense of scale for how tall Darth Vader and Chewbacca really are, and (my personal favorite) the small size of the Yoda puppet used in The Empire Strikes Back.
The exhibit is currently in Indianapolis, Indiana. and heads to San Jose, California, at the end of the year.
4. Star Wars Identities
As Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination wraps up its tour, the new exhibit Star Wars Identities is getting off the ground. Of all of these exhibits, this is the only one I haven’t attended personally, but I was sold the second I saw the teaser for it.
Star Wars Identities focuses on the characters of the films, from the costumes and makeup to what makes a person who they are. Visitors will find themselves on an “identity quest” while they walk through the exhibits, answering questions to find the place they would have in the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars Identities is currently at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Ont., and will embark on a worldwide tour in the years to come.
5. Star Trek: The Exhibition
If Star Trek is more your cup of tea (Earl Grey, hot), there’s also a traveling museum exhibit for fans of all ages. Star Trek: The Exhibition houses props, costumes and models from every Star Trek series and film. Prosthetics worn by the actors are also under glass for ogling.
A handy timeline of the future fills in the events of every Star Trek story that even the most diehard Trekker might have missed.
A replica of the original Enterprise bridge is also on display at the exhibit for photo ops with the family. The re-creation of Captain Picard’s quarters stopped me in my tracks (for a long time), as I peered inside and briefly considered trying to touch the prop flute from “The Inner Light.”
It wouldn’t be Star Trek without time travel and paradoxes: It looks like Star Trek: The Exhibition is currently in two places at once. You can catch the exhibit in Taiwan through the end of the year, or right now at the San Diego County Fair (through July 4).