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Monument to 'Star Trek: Voyager' captain set for May debut

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Captain Kathryn Janeway is coming home.

A group working to create a monument to the lead character in “Star Trek: Voyager” has met its crowdfunding campaign goal of $12,500. The Captain Janeway Bloomington Collective will receive matching funds from the Indiana Housing & Community Development. That gives them enough to build it.

“Since we announced we hit our goal, people just seem amazed that we pulled this off,” Peter Kaczmarcyk said. He and his wife, Mary Beth, have headed up efforts to create the monument this year. “We’re not the first people who had this idea, but we’re the first ones who really carried it through.”

He said it’s partially been successful because so many people got on board to keep things going, and also because of timing — 2020 is the 25th anniversary of “Voyager,” and it’s the perfect time to celebrate.

On May 23 — three days after Bloomington-native Janeway’s fictional birthday in the 24th century — a bust bearing the likeness of actress Kate Mulgrew will be unveiled in downtown Bloomington, thanks to many local partnerships and the permission of CBS. Included in the design is a limestone base in the shape of the Starfleet insignia; and an informational table with information about the USS Voyager captain, series writer and producer Jeri Taylor and their local connections.

Taylor is also a Bloomington native and earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in 1959.

Initially, the unveiling was planned for May 20, the character’s birthday, but Kaczmarczyk said so many people expressed interest in attending that they decided to move it to the weekend.

Along with community partners, the group plans additional events that week to connect with the character and the series. WonderLab is already working with the collective to plan a full-day event in conjunction with the unveiling. Bloomington’s museum of science, health and technology has signed on to host “The Science of Star Trek” on May 23. Details are still in the works for activities and demonstrations related to physics, astronomy and engineering with a focus on the franchise.

WonderLab education director Deirdre Sheets said her team is excited to collaborate with the Janeway project. “We thought it was a natural fit,” she said. “One of WonderLab’s pillars of our educational philosophy is that science teaching should expose learners to actual facts. The science of Star Trek has always been largely true to science.”

With so many Bloomington residents working in the sciences, outreach and elementary education specialist Shelbie Porteroff said, it’s common to see scientists passing on their interest in science to children when they visit WonderLab. And that interest can often overlap with a love of science fiction.

“They’re active in science, active in science learning and also active in being part of this franchise,” she said. “A lot of parents have taken pride in sharing their love for Star Trek with their children.”

Sarah Lynn Wells, a museum educator who focuses on adult and secondary education, said this kind of themed event also offers a learning opportunity for all ages.

“We want to give everyone an opportunity to learn science,” she said, even adults. “If your work isn’t in a science field, maybe you don’t get that opportunity as much, to experience science, to work with science and to learn science.” and some people who might be drawn in because they love the Star Trek TV series and movies could find other things to love at WonderLab.

But the team agrees the celebration is about more than just a television show. “While this event is specifically focused on Star Trek and Janeway, Star Trek has done a really great job of providing representation for different people and identities,” Porteroff said.

Part of science education, Sheets said, is “making sure that we are highlighting people in fields of science that look like everyone in the community,” she said. “This day is about a woman who is a leader, a scientist and an engineer,” Sheets said.

In November, Mulgrew spoke about the project with an audience member when she appeared at Rhode Island Comicon. “How flattering,” she said. (The conversation is in an episode of the podcast “StarPodTrek” released Nov. 14.) Mulgrew told the audience she really believes her character helped women in science, and “I’d go back and do the whole bloody thing again for that reason alone.”

The Captain Janeway Bloomington Collective has asked CBS twice whether it can help get Mulgrew to Bloomington for the event. No one’s made any promises, Kaczmarcyk said, but “they haven’t said no.” Regardless of whether she attends, however, her involvement is key to the process.

“She has to sign off on the design of the bust,” Kaczmarcyk said. CBS provided him with photos of how Mulgrew would prefer to look in a permanent display. Most importantly, he said, they had to pick the right hairstyle. Because Mulgrew disliked the bun style she was given in the early days of “Voyager,” they were asked to use the shorter hairstyle with a side part that she has later in the series.

When the monument is completed, it’ll join a long history of Star Trek connections in Bloomington. A collection of Taylor’s papers relating to her work on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Voyager” is archived at IU’s Lilly Library, offering behind-the-scenes pieces of the “Voyager” series.

For example: The phrase “no root cellar” appears in casual cursive on a sticky note, attached to a 1994 memo on Paramount Pictures letterhead, addressed to “Jeri” with the subject “Janeway’s name.” The memo has a list of women’s names, two of which are starred: “Caroline” and “Katherine.”

It’s not clear what the root cellar message means — Rebecca Baumann, head of public services at Lilly Library, said she didn’t know what the sticky note meant when she showed some of Taylor’s papers to The Herald-Times in May.

In the pilot episode of “Voyager,” titled “The Caretaker,” Janeway’s crew finds themselves in a holographic representation of a farm on Earth. Its inhabitants sing and dance to American folk music, offering farm fresh food and insisting, “We don’t mean you any harm.”

In an attempt to distract two crew members, an overly friendly young woman with a southern drawl asks them to come to the root cellar, which she says is “real private.” One is nearly tempted by her beauty and attention. Was there perhaps an early script in which the character, Tom Paris, did make his way to the root cellar?

Or maybe whoever left the note was seeing into the future, when Star Trek fans will flock to Bloomington to celebrate Capt. Janeway, deciding whether to grab a drink at the Root Cellar Lounge after the unveiling.

Kaczmarcyk said now that the monument itself is fully funded, they can spend more time brainstorming and planning additional activities for Janeway’s upcoming birthday week. The creation of the monument may be fully funded, but fundraising efforts will continue to ensure its future maintenance, and to help fund related events.

Although the collective also may seek corporate funding for events and maintenance, Kaczmarcyk said, donors contributing to the Janeway monument so far are primarily individuals — fans of the show, fans of public art and fans of elevating a female character in a leadership role. “That says a lot about the interest in seeing this project happen,” he said.

Organizers are still working with Bloomington officials on picking the exact spot for the statue and table. They’ve narrowed it down to an area along the B-Line Trail, somewhere between WonderLab on West Fourth Street and West 10th Street near The Mill.

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