Smithsonian Acquires P-Funk’s Mothership

Smithsonian Acquires P-Funk’s Mothership

The legendary concert spacecraft finds a home at new museum.

Published May 23, 2011

Once again, Chocolate City will be paid a visit by P-Funk’s Mothership. Only this time the stay is permanent.


Parliament Funkadelic’s legendary spaceship has been acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The funky UFO will become part of a permanent music exhibition when the museum opens its doors in 2015.


“I’m about to cry!” George Clinton, P-Funk’s frontman, said to the Washington Post. “They’re taking the Mothership! They’re shipping it out! . . . But I’m glad it’s going to have a nice home there.”


Though it isn’t the original Mothership, the 1,200-pound aluminum stage prop—built in the mid-'90s—is an exact replica of the smoke-spewing, disco-ball-sporting spacecraft George Clinton and his pioneering funk army introduced to fans in 1976. When the band first lowered the Mothership from the rafters, not only was the response rapturous, but the spaceship instantly became a cosmic metaphor for the sense of possibility following the civil rights movement.


The original Mothership was scrapped in 1982. Parliament Funkadelic’s mounting debt forced the group’s management to get rid of it, trashing the beloved spaceship in a Prince George’s County junkyard. Since then, its whereabouts have been unknown. But a 2010 piece on the Mothership’s disappearance in the Washington Post motivated the Smithsonian’s project historian, Kevin Strait, to search for it. “[When] all signs pointed to the fact that we weren’t going to find the original,” Strait said. “That’s when we essentially put our attentions toward the new one."

(Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Written by Marcus Reeves


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