Go inside the 2001: A Space Odyssey bedroom at this free museum show

The Barmecide Feast recreates the eerie French-style bedroom from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it's free to go inside.
Step where only astronaut Dave Bowman has tread before at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's The Barmecide Feast. Credit: 14th Factory

Step where only astronaut Dave Bowman has tread before at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's The Barmecide Feast. Credit: 14th Factory

The only French bedroom in outer space is landing here on Earth for a special 2001: A Space Odyssey anniversary exhibit.

 

It’s been 50 years since Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece premiered, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. is stepping a little beyond its usual straight-science mission for a two-month celebration of the film starting April 8.

 

The highlight of its festivities is The Barmecide Feast, a full-scale recreation of the rococo-style bedroom where (spoiler alert) astronaut Dave Bowman “lives out” the rest of his days after meeting the alien intelligence that’s been guiding human evolution since the dawn of man.

 

The room is a faithful replica of an 18th-century French living space, with one exception: the floor of light-up panels, a reminder of the Star Gate that Bowman passed through to leave his body behind and become a Star Child. Recreated by Hong Kong-based artist Simon Birch, the set even has its own eerie original soundtrack by Gray Gunn.

 

The name Barmecide Feast comes from a story in 1,001 Arabian Nights about a beggar who dreams up a banquet. In the film, the room is meant to be a construct pulled from Bowman’s memories to comfort him, according to a new book about the making of the film Space Odyssey.

But as far as what it means, the room has as many interpretations as there are possible futures. As the museum’s Space History Department curator Martin Collins suggests to Air and Space Magazine, the architecture is from the last era before the French Revolution, when people weren’t sure what would come next after the last monarch was sent to the guillotine.

And yes, you can actually step inside (after taking off your shoes) with a free timed ticket, but you must register online in advance. Groups of six are allowed in the room for two minutes at a time, so plan your selfies ahead and do all your philosophizing in the museum’s cafe. 

If you can’t make it to the exhibit, 2001: A Space Odyssey will be re-released in theaters on May 18.

The Barmedice Feast is open April 8 to May 28. The National Air and Space Museum is open daily 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., located on Independence Avenue and Sixth Avenue on the National Mall, Washington D.C. Admission is free.

 
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