Last Friday, March 26, on the first official “Leonard Nimoy Day” in the City of Boston,” as well as what would’ve been the 90th birthday of the West End native best known for his portrayal of Mr. Spock on the classic TV series “Star Trek,” came the announcement that the Museum of Science would pay tribute to Nimoy – and Spock – with a memorial on its grounds representing the character’s iconic Vulcan hand salutation.
The museum, which has launched a fundraising campaign with a target of $1 million, is partnering with the Nimoy family and Massachusetts artist David Phillips to build a large, stainless-steel monument depicting the Vulcan hand salutation, which comprises a raised hand with the palm forward and thumb extended while the middle and ring fingers are parted, that would be illuminated from within using LED lighting.
“It’s been kind of a rollercoaster process,” Phillips said, “and I was wasn’t sure how it would go, but when the Museum of Science committed, then the project really took off.”
Contrary to previously published reports that the monument would stand 20 feet, Phillips said the proposed height is in fact 25 feet.
Another clarification Phillips wants to make is that while a concept for the memorial is now finished, the engineering-driven design is still in the works, he said, and won’t be completed until a couple of months from now.
“It’s kind of has an energy of its own now, and that’s gratifying,” Phillips said. “It makes me feel good that all this work is paying off, but we still have a long way to go.”
Phillips’ involvement in the project can be credited to Tom Stocker, a South End artist who had undertaken an effort in earnest to memorialize Nimoy in his hometown, but wasn’t sure what form it would take until he saw Phillips’ “Scrolls” – a 16-foot-high sculpture crafted from perforated stainless steel to resemble the form of a violin and illuminated from within via LED lighting that sits on the lawn across from the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. Stocker then reached out to Phillips, a complete stranger, who was more than receptive to getting on board with a project that would pay tribute to Nimoy.
“Tom and I have been stressing that the main point of this project is Leonard Nimoy the man and his interest in science and the arts,” Phillips said. “Nimoy himself seemed to be a straight, rational thinker like [the character he played on TV].”
Stocker had started a grassroots fundraiser via Facebook to gauge interest in the project, which, between June and October of last year, raised just under $5,000 for the cause.
In contrast, the Museum of Science, since launching its fundraising campaign last Friday, had raised more than $15,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
“The power of big corporations like CBS [which owns the rights to the “Star Trek” franchise] and institutions like the Museum of Science, as well as the Nimoy family, to raise money shows you what can be done quickly,” Stocker said.
Nimoy, whose parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, grew up as the son of a barber in the old West End. He honed his acting skills at the Elizabeth Peabody House and the West End House, as well as through a summer scholarship for acting lessons at Boston College in his teens. Nimoy, a 1948 graduate of English High (back when it was located on Montgomery Street in the South End), was also awarded an honorary degree from Boston University in 2012.
In his proclamation declaring Leonard Nimoy Day in the City of Boston, former Mayor Martin J. Walsh wrote that Nimoy, who died at age 83 in February of 2015, “through his fictional character, Mr. Spock – half human/half Vulcan – gave the immigrant, the refugee, and the oppressed, a hero for ‘the Outsider.’”
The Vulcan hand salutation (along with its accompanying spoken expression of well-wishing, “Live Long and Prosper”) ranks among the most indelible and instantly recognizable images from the “Star Trek” universe, and Nimoy revealed in his autobiography, “I Am Not Spock,” that he based it on a rabbinical blessing he saw performed during a religious service he accompanied his grandfather to as a boy at an Orthodox synagogue in the old West End.
“The ‘Live Long and Prosper’ symbol represents a message that my dad believed so strongly in,” said Leonard’s daughter, Julie Nimoy, in a press release. “My dad always loved Boston and he would be honored knowing that the Museum of Science would be the permanent home to this memorial. The sculpture not only depicts one of the world’s most recognized and loved gestures for peace, tolerance, and diversity, but it will also be a beautiful tribute to my dad’s life and legacy.”
Nimoy also had a strong personal connection to the Museum of Science during his lifetime, since in the ‘80s, he collaborated with the museum to voice the original introduction film for the Mugar Omni Theater.
“Leonard Nimoy was one of our own,” Tim Ritchie, the museum’s president, said in a press release. “Growing up a few blocks from the Museum of Science, he never forgot his immigrant roots. He was, and forever will be, a beloved part of our Museum family. He lifted our aspirations and hopes through his commitment to science, intellectual curiosity, generosity, and, yes, logic. He reminded us about the best part of humanity and gave us a vision for building a society based on reason and tolerance.”
To donate to the Museum of Science’s fundraising campaign for the Leonard Nimoy Memorial, visit https://donate.mos.org/campaign/leonard-nimoy-memorial/c329955.