Laela French, director of Lucasfilm’s Archive Collection, talks maintaining artefacts from a long time ago...
There are some amazing artefacts on display in Star Wars Identities, but how much Star Wars stuff do you have that fans haven’t seen yet?
There’s things that we’d love to be able to tour around the world, but they’re just too fragile to do so. We rely on a smaller subset of artefacts – often props and models – that are more durable or more iconic. Then we have to balance out the needs of the casual museum goer who will be more flexible about what they see, and the dedicated Star Wars fans. so we’re always trying to add in a few items that maybe are not seen very often. With Identities we have a few things that have never been on the road before.
Some of the stuff in the collection is now 40 years old. What are the challenges in maintaining it all?
The most challenging things are the latex masks – they get a little bit dry and wrinkly and start to peel – and we’ve been on a big conservation programme, to have those restored a little bit. The ship models were beautifully done with great detail, but they weren’t designed to last for 40 years and tour the world. it’s amazing how well they hold up generally, but every now and then we find little joints or bits that fall off that we have to continually repair.
How involved is the archive with the new Star Wars movies?
Because the new movies are being made under the disney umbrella, the props are being maintained by them. When we coordinate – like if we’ve got a [first Order] stormtrooper – we’re really talking to the production team, saying, “What can we borrow to show?” But we work with the new production. directors, writers, occasionally a set or costume designer, will come to the archive. i feel like it’s a pilgrimage that they’re obliged to make, to come back to the original collection and really immerse themselves. There’s a patina to Star Wars that’s very unique, and i think when they come in, their eyes light up.