You don’t have to travel to a galaxy far, far away to be transported to the awe-inspiring world of Star Wars. Who would have thought that in rural west Petaluma, about 0 minutes from downtown, on property that once housed a chicken ranch, you would find Rancho Obi-Wan, a museum housing the world’s largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia. Created by former Wall Street Journal LA bureau chief and current Lucasfilm Fan Relations Advisor Steve Sansweet, the 9,000 square foot museum houses a collection of more than 300,000 unique Star Wars collectibles.
The folks at Rancho Obi-Wan generously hosted a tour of the museum for the staff and volunteers from the Petaluma Visitors Center last Friday. Star Wars geeks who visit Rancho Obi-Wan will think they’ve died and gone to heaven. For those of us whose understanding of the saga is limited to knowing that Darth is the bad guy and Luke is the good guy, you’ll still find a visit to the museum exhilarating. The memory of it stays with you.
Our tour started with General Manager Anne Neumann giving us a little history of the museum and explaining how Steve who is a “born collector” came to combine his passion for collectibles, his talent as a writer and love of Star Wars into Rancho Obi-Wan with its mission of “inspiration and education.” The museum became a non-profit in 2011; revenue from ticket sales goes to run the museum and is never used towards purchasing collectibles. They donate tours to school groups, often tailoring them to the specific educational interest of the group. That’s a field trip no one would want to miss!
Once inside the museum, President and CEO Steve Sansweet took over. He has written or co-authored 17 books on Star Wars and is a recognized authority on all things Star Wars. His energy and enthusiasm for sharing his passion is contagious. When he says, “Let me show you the wonders of the Star Wars galaxy,” I found myself ready to jump on board the closest Millennium Falcon.
I think their mission of inspiration is what surprised me the most about the museum. I was expecting to see plenty of manufactured action figures (they have 2300 of them), light sabers and starships. What I didn’t expect to see were all the one-of-a-kind expressions of fan art. Fans worldwide draw upon the Star Wars characters and stories to inspire their own creativity in whatever medium that they work in. It could be an artist in Mexico who creates a Bantha piñata out of papier-mache, a full set of origami-style paper characters, a crocheted Leia, or a miniature carved wooden Yoda.
Another reason that Rancho Obi-Wan is fun to visit regardless of your level of immersion into Star Wars is because of the huge range types of products that bear the Star Wars branding; there is something everyone can relate to. The food products are lots of fun. I especially liked the can of Niblets Corn from Hungary with Han on the label.
Our tour was an abbreviated “walk-through” and took almost two hours but a regularly scheduled tour takes four hours and now I understand why; it’s because almost every item in the 300,000 piece collection has its own unique story. How did the museum acquire the life-size Lego sculptures of Boba Fett and Darth? Steve bought them when toy store FAO Schwarz went out of business. How about the 600 pound Darth face? That has been a display item in the Times Square Toys R Us store. They called Lucasfilm and they referred them to Rancho Obi-Wan. Anne says, “We’re the garbage collectors of Star Wars.”
Thank you Steve and Anne for an incredible experience! We are so proud to have Rancho Obi-Wan in Petaluma. Rancho Obi-Wan invites you to join them at their fundraiser at Lagunitas on Tuesday, May 3rd. Details will be available on the website.
Rancho Obi-Wan is available for hosting parties, meetings and retreats. Yoda says, "A unique venue, this is."