Space dock: Shuttlecraft and USS Riverside in the Museum parking lot.
Space dock: Shuttlecraft and USS Riverside in the Museum parking lot.

Star Trek Voyage Home Museum

Field review by the editors.

Riverside, Iowa

Riverside, Iowa, has a claim-to-fame that can't be proven until two centuries in the future, but that hasn't stopped it from starting the celebration right now.

A crowded universe of Star Trek ship models.
A crowded universe of Star Trek ship models.

Riverside is the official Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk, captain of the Starship Enterprise -- a native son born in the 23rd century. With such a long lead time before Kirk arrives, the town has been under no deadline pressure. It first claimed the captain in 1985, but didn't open its Star Trek Voyage Home Museum until 2008. The museum is now the go-to place in Riverside for all Kirk questions and alternate history disputes.

For a shrine to the future of space exploration, the museum is low-tech and home-built, reminding us of how props and sets on the original TV series probably looked up close. Riverside receives no help from Star Trek's corporate owners and must be careful not to infringe on any copyrights.

Kirk, McCoy, and Spock have beamed up from Planet 2-D.
Kirk, McCoy, and Spock have beamed up from Planet 2-D.

"I make the Tribbles," said Wendee McCracken, museum president, showing us some furry muffs for sale at the gift counter. "If you fill out the paper on the back, I'll send you a birth certificate."

Wendee also had a hand in creating the Riverside's "Horta" monster (a tarp that fits over a car) and the museum's unique bathroom, where visitors can imagine they're in Kirk's captain's chair by sitting on the toilet.

Standing in the museum is a life-size statue of a guy in a Starfleet uniform, carved from a tree. Is that Captain Kirk? "It's supposed to be," said Wanda Blakley, one of the museum volunteers. "Although people say it looks more like Han Solo."

On a pedestal next to the statue sits what we thought was a jet engine, but Wendee said it was in fact a titanium time capsule created by Sean Christopher Paris, a self-described "galactic artist," in 1990. "It's so pretty, we didn't have the heart to bury it," said Wendee. That's why it's in the museum and not beneath the Kirk birthplace monument, which is where the artist had wanted it. "It's supposed to be opened on the day Kirk is born."

Captain's Chair, with the seat up, in the Museum bathroom.
Captain's Chair, with the seat up, in the Museum bathroom.

Wooden Kirk.
Wooden Kirk stands next to Kirk time capsule that was too pretty to bury.

The museum provides cardboard stand-ups of Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy for photo ops, uniforms from various Star Trek series, starship models to ponder, and framed examples of t-shirt art from the town's annual Trek Fest celebration, dating back over 30 years.

Out in the parking lot sits the star of the Trek Fest parade, a trailer-mounted "USS Riverside," which bears a remarkable (but not legally liable) resemblance to the USS Enterprise.

One showcase in the museum is devoted to the memorable month of September 2004, when William Shatner (the original Captain Kirk) finally came to town. He said he was starring in a movie, "Invasion Iowa," but in fact he was filming a prank reality series for a cable channel. The people of Riverside (who were the ones being punked) took it in stride, and even the notoriously prickly Shatner warmed to them in the end. Artifacts on display include an uncashed $4.00 Shatner check for coffee and doughnuts, several of his partly-smoked cigars, and a pair of flesh-colored briefs, autographed by Shatner, that were worn by a guy who ran around on camera pretending to be naked.

Riverside has a population of around 900. None of them is named Kirk, but Wendee and Wanda don't think that's a problem. "We have over 200 years," said Wanda. "We'll find one."

Also see: Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk | Captain Kirk Conceived Here

Star Trek Voyage Home Museum

Address:
361 W. 1st St., Riverside, IA
Directions:
US Hwy 218 exit 80. Drive west on Hwy 22/E. Hickory St. for 1.5 miles into town. As the road bends right you'll see the museum on the right; the USS Riverside is usually parked outside in the parking lot.
Hours:
Th-Sa 10-4, Su 12-4 (Call to verify)
Phone:
319-648-2226
Admission:
Free
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Captain Kirk Conceived HereCaptain Kirk Conceived Here, Riverside, IA - < 1 mi.
Future Birthplace of James T. KirkFuture Birthplace of James T. Kirk, Riverside, IA - < 1 mi.
Metal Corn CobMetal Corn Cob, Iowa City, IA - 11 mi.
In the region:
Statue Of Liberty, Mount Pleasant, IA - 36 mi.

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November 20, 2017

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