*The Mothership — the iconic stage prop made famous by legendary funk collective Parliament-Funkadelic — has been acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture where it will help anchor a permanent music exhibition when the museum opens its doors in 2015.
“I’m about to cry!” Parliament-Funkadelic frontman Clinton tells the AP from his home in Tallahassee on Wednesday. “They’re taking the Mothership! They’re shipping it out! . . . But I’m glad it’s going to have a nice home there.”
It isn’t the original Mothership. The Smithsonian-bound 1,200-pound aluminum spacecraft was built in the mid-’90s — an indistinguishable replica, Clinton says, of the smoke-spewing stage prop he first introduced to funk fans in 1976.
But by 1982, Parliament-Funkadelic’s towering debts forced the group’s Washington-based management company to trash the Mothership in a Prince George’s County scrap yard. And what happened next has become the stuff of myth. Was it stolen? Did it burn in a fire? Is it still floating around somewhere in the cosmos?
An April 2010 Washington Post story about the Mothership’s disappearance sent the Smithsonian searching for it. Kevin Strait, project historian for the museum, didn’t get very far. “All signs pointed to the fact that we weren’t going to find the original,” Strait said. “So that’s when we essentially put our attentions toward the new one.”
Strait contacted Clinton’s management, and the bandleader eventually decided to donate the piece. The ship was reportedly picked up from Clinton’s Tallahassee recording studio [see video below] and is said to have arrived at Smithsonian storage facility in suburban Maryland on Thursday.
It will be exhibited alongside other artifacts from American music history — Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, James Brown’s stage costumes and Lena Horne’s evening gowns.