October 3, 2012

Volunteering at Rancho Obi-Wan


Sometimes I do crazy things. Most recently, I spent 12 hours in the car over a period of two days so I could volunteer at Rancho Obi-Wan. I'd do it again in a heartbeat because it wasn't just about ROW or Star Wars, it was about hanging out with awesome people.

The first pile of boxes!
If you're not aware, Rancho Obi-Wan is Steve Sansweet's non-profit museum. It houses the largest private collection of Star Wars memorabilia; trust me, it's really hard to wrap your head around the amount of stuff there. It's mind boggling and amazing. I took the official tour last January and fell in love. I wanted to go back as soon as I could, but it didn't work out until recently. Since I'd already had the tour, I wanted to try something else: volunteering. I had a hunch that there was always something to be done there, and last weekend, a lot of boxes needed shuffled around. A crew of about ten (volunteers and ROW staff) spent most of last Saturday lending hands and muscles and wisecracks (they help the moving process!).

We moved along in phases with breaks in between so we wouldn't get worn out. I actually got it easier than most because I can't lift very heavy things (but I still tried! We emptied shelves of dusty boxes, but I don't think they were bare for long. That picture above is what came off the shelves - you know, just a few things. We hauled around what felt like a ton of books (ROW will be donating some for Star Wars Reads, more on that tomorrow) and everyone else moved stacks of bankers boxes from a storage area into the museum for Steve to sort through. Since I wasn't a ton of assistance in the moving giant, weighty stuff department - plus there were just a lot of people and I kept getting in the way - I spent the last part of the day watching Steve sort through boxes and trying to be helpful. We weren't cataloging exactly, but it still made my inner organizer happy. I could have done it all day.


Box of bootlegs
The boxes were full of so very many awesome items: stationery, prototypes, cards, bootlegs, linens, apparel, bathroom products, Hasbro toys, Funko toys, LEGO sets, games - video and otherwise, jewelry, belt buckles, shoes, food wrappers and boxes, and those are just the collectibles I remember seeing! Occasionally Steve would find something he hadn't seen in a while and had been looking for, and a handful of items had stories. We started new boxes and re-organized the items as we went. We made slow but sure progress and at the end of the day, there was a thankfully noticeable difference in the piles of boxes.

Sorted boxes - the stacks were two deep
It gave me a new appreciation for what it takes to manage a collection that immense. Cataloging all of it seems... daunting. I think it would take a few people working every day for a while to document every item while keeping up with new additions. I have more respect than ever for the staff at ROW. Saturday went fast because there were so many volunteers but without all those folks, well, it would have been significantly less fun. And it truly was a blast. I left covered in dust and getting out of bed hurt the next morning (okay, it's still hurting a little), but it was completely worth it. If I lived closer to ROW, they'd have a hard time keeping me away on weekends.

And just to be extra clear: this is NOT what the tour is like. You won't have to move a single box. The tour experience is like this, and I can't recommend it enough. If you like Star Wars, storytelling, and nice people who love what they're doing - schedule a tour as soon as you can.

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