When he was 7, Corey Rogers went to see Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with his father.
He watched, he recalls, fascinated as the all-terrain armored transport vehicles marched across the screen.
“That blew my mind away,” he said. “They did an awesome job of capturing armored transports that were coming to uproot the rebels on this ice planet.”
Like many children of the 1970s, he received toys and other items related to the Star Wars franchise. But the one thing he wanted and never got as a child was one of those amazing machines.
Now he has one, and through the end of September it is on display in the Georgia Room of the Augusta-Richmond County Library, along with a sampling of Rogers’ vast collection of Star Wars memorabilia.
The collection includes vintage vehicles, action figures and artwork.
Some of the action figures are still in their original packaging and have been autographed by the actors portraying the character, such as an autograph of James Earl Jones on a Darth Vader figure he picked up at Celebration III in Indianapolis.
Rogers said he has always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. It offers him the opportunity to get away and enjoy another world.
He is a historian at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, and said he recognizes history in the futuristic works.
“See, here’s the thing. George Lucas created this futuristic universe, but he and Steven Spielberg and many of these guys, when they do these movies, they use history as their template for creating these universes,” he said.
“When you look at the Imperial Forces, the first thing that comes to my mind is Germany as it began to build pre-World War II. Even when you listen to the language George Lucas uses, it smacks of different engagements that we’ve had in the 20th century.”
Now that he collects more artwork than toys, Rogers occasionally commissions work that combines the futuristic concept and history.
An example is a drawing on display at the library that places the main characters from the Star Wars universe in the famous “raising of the flag at Iwo Jima” image.
Rogers said about 80 percent of the items on display are his – the rest belong to friends, fellow enthusiasts and his brother, Carl Rogers – and it represents only about 5 percent of his collection.
Most of the collection stays in boxes. Rogers said he is a minimalist and doesn’t like a lot of clutter, so he doesn’t display much of it at home.
He does keep a few pieces on display, however. A Darth Vader display usually resides in the guest bedroom, and a couple of the large action figures greet guests as they walk in. Most of the pieces that are displayed are artwork.
“I have about 35 pieces on my wall, spread out. A lot of these pieces (on display at the library) have not been out of the box in two or three years,” he said.
Genealogy and local history librarian Dottie Demarest asked Rogers to display his collection at the library as a way to draw in people who would not ordinarily visit the Georgia history room.
“It brings them in and shows them what we have to offer,” she said.
Many of the room’s resources are geared toward genealogy, so to go along with Rogers’ collection, she did Luke Skywalker’s and Princess Leia’s genealogy.
“Even fictional characters have genealogy,” she said.
Demarest said the displays in the library change every two months, and she invites members of the community to share their hobbies and collections.
“All they need to do is contact me and we’ll work something out,” she said.