Is there a more iconic set of ears in science fiction than those of Mr. Spock? The half-human, half-Vulcan science officer, first portrayed by Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek: The Original Series and subsequent films, was known for his shrewd intelligence, his cool logic, and his pointed ears.
We are excited to share that a new prop from Star Trek has joined our collection: a set of Spock ear tips from Nimoy’s personal collection. These ear tips were made for Nimoy to transform into Mr. Spock in the filming of The Original Series and were taken home from set by the actor, who hand-built a display box to keep them safe. We are honored that his children Adam and Julie and the Nimoy family have donated his father’s keepsake ears to the National Air and Space Museum.
“When he finished filming the original Star Trek series in 1969, my father brought home a small memento to commemorate his three years of dedicated work on the original series—a pair of Spock’s Vulcan ears,” Adam Nimoy shared with us regarding the donation.
“Mounted in a black box, those ears have been in our family for over fifty years as a tribute to Dad’s outstanding performances as Mr. Spock and the inspiration and hope that Star Trek have given to generations of fans all over this planet. Today it’s my honor to donate the iconic Spock ears to the National Air and Space Museum, home to the starship Enterprise studio model, where they can be experienced by visitors firsthand. The donation honors Beit T’Shuvah and the Leonard Nimoy COPD Research Fund at UCLA, two organizations supported by our family and dedicated to the Vulcan salutation of long life and prosperity.”
These authentic Spock ears join another Spock ear tip in the National Air and Space Museum collection — this one hand-made by Star Trek fan Doug Drexler for use while dressing up as the Vulcan at fan conventions. Its presence in our collection represents the passion of the Star Trek fandom and the type of memorabilia sold at the Federation Trading Post retail store in New York City (and at its sister store in California).
And we are now thrilled to also have a pair of Spock ear tips from the set of Star Trek: The Original Series, made for and cherished by the man who first brought the iconic character to life. According to Margaret Weitekamp, curator of the Museum's social and cultural history of spaceflight collection, there was concern before Star Trek premiered hat some would interpret Spock’s appearance — specifically his pointed ears — as devilish, leading some early NBC publicity photos to round off Spock’s ears. “Concerns about Spock’s seemingly demonic appearance ended when bags of fan mail began arriving for Nimoy from around the country,” Weitekamp said. “Spock’s cool logic offered a new kind of heroic figure.”
Thus began what a Boston Globe article dubbed “Spockmania.” Several fans at the 1967 World Science Fiction Convention in New York dressed as Spock for the masquerade parade, some Mariner 5 NASA spacecraft controllers wore paper Vulcan ears while at their consoles, and Nimoy began getting mobbed at appearances.
Seeing these ear tips in person is a special treat for any Star Trek fan, and we were lucky to be there when Weitekamp received the package from Nimoy and unboxed the artifact for the first time.
Given the legacy of Leonard Nimoy and the character of Mr. Spock, these ear tips are an excellent addition to our already robust Star Trek collection, helmed by the Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model, which will go back on display in the Museum’s Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall when the gallery’s renovation is complete.
The ears will go on display in late 2022 in the upcoming Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring the Planets Gallery. Within the gallery, they serve to illustrate our cultural imagination about possible life on other planets.
Until then, we leave you with the everlasting words of Mr. Spock — “Live long and prosper.”