The funkiest UFO in the galaxy is about to land in Chocolate City.

The Mothership — the iconic stage prop made famous by legendary funk collective Parliament-Funkadelic — has been acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture where it will help anchor a permanent music exhibition when the museum opens its doors in 2015.

It isn’t the original Mothership. This 1,200-pound aluminum spacecraft was built in the mid-’90s — an indistinguishable replica, Clinton says, of the smoke-spewing stage prop he first introduced to slack-jawed funk fans in 1976.

But by 1982, Parliament-Funkadelic’s towering debts forced the group’s Washington-based management company to trash the Mothership in a Prince George’s County scrap yard. And what happened next has become the stuff of myth. Was it stolen? Did it burn in a fire? Is it still floating around somewhere in the cosmos?

It’ll be somewhat of a homecoming. The group first formed as the Parliaments in Plainfield, New Jersey in the late 1950’s, but after morphing into a two-group collective — Parliament and Funkadelic — it would go on to enjoy one of its most loyal followings in Washington. Parliament’s 1975 album “Chocolate City” gave the nation’s capital an unofficial nickname that still sticks today.

When the band lowered the Mothership from the rafters of the Capital Centre in Landover in 1977, the response was rapturous. Not only was it instantly stunning — it felt like a cosmic metaphor for the sense of possibility that followed the civil rights movement.

That symbolism isn’t lost on the Smithsonian.

It will be exhibited alongside other artifacts from American music history — Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, James Brown’s stage costumes, Lena Horne’s evening gowns. But it will be the only spaceship.

And while the original Mothership’s whereabouts remain a mystery, Clinton thinks this one will serve the Smithsonian just fine.

via Smithsonian acquires Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership - The Washington Post.