BY GREG SIERING
When Ben Motz, senior lecturer in the Indiana University Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, was a boy, his parents instilled in him a fascination with science fiction, particularly Star Trek. He grew up knowing all about the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, and vividly recalls watching episodes of the original TV series with his mother.
That’s why, when he graduated from sixth grade, he truly appreciated the gift his parents gave him—a pair of pointed latex ears worn by Leonard Nimoy in his role as Spock in the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. “They were right up my alley at the time,” Motz recalls, admitting to being a particularly nerdy child.
The ears were his most prized possession, and he never thought of trying them on, seeing them instead as “an object of reverence.” For years he kept them stored away with other childhood mementos. But, deep down, he always felt they were too special to gather dust in the top of his closet.
When he discovered that the IU Lilly Library held a collection of Star Trek memorabilia, Motz realized he had found an appropriate home for his Spock ears and donated them to the collection.
Motz says he never felt like the ears belonged in a private collection, even his own, and he thinks that is truer today than ever, given Nimoy’s death in 2015.
“They are more than a collectible, but an artifact with historical and cultural significance,” he says.
There was great diversity among the Enterprise crew, Motz notes, including a Russian navigator, an Asian helmsman, and a black female communications officer. But it was the alien character of Spock who made all of the human crewmates seem more similar. “They were all homogeneous, despite their differences,” he says. Add in Spock’s fascination with humanity, and Star Trek showed us that, “Earth is a relatively small place, and we’re all in this together.”
Motz says Star Trek’s themes of diversity, inclusion, and the quest for peaceful resolutions are more important today than ever as we continue to struggle to appreciate both our differences and our commonalities. And that, Spock might say, makes the timing of Motz’s gift to the Lilly Library imminently logical.
To learn more about the Lilly Library’s Star Trek collection, visit indiana.edu/~liblilly.