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What exactly goes into George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art?

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Besides "Star Wars"—we all know "Star Wars"

Amidst the six-year (and counting) drama of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (which may yet find a home in San Francisco by way of a strategically placed Treasure Island site), there’s one thing a lot of people have never been clear on: Just what goes into a museum of "narrative art" anyway?

Most of us assumed that artifacts and memorabilia from Lucas’ own films, particularly the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, would be the marquee showcases designed to get most of us in the doors (assuming there ever are doors, of course).

But while Lucas and his subordinates have been consistent in promising that the proposed institution won’t just be a Star Wars museum, they’ve rarely articulated exactly what the collection will be. The museum site provides a few examples, but these brief glimpses only deepen the mystery.

Now, here’s San Francisco Chronicle art critic Charles Desmarais with your answers. Desmarais scored a first look at the initial collection of 750-plus exhibit items at Lucas’ Marin County home. In the process, he’s provided a much-needed rescue for and clarification of the divisive project’s entire concept.

In short, narrative art (as the future museum defines it) is Lucas’ personal collection of 10,000 paintings and illustrations about the craft of storytelling, plus 30,000 "film-related objects." In case you ever stayed up late at night wondering what a guy like George Lucas does with all of that money, now you know.

Previewed items range from illustrations from first editions of classic books like The Jungle Book and The Wind in the Willows to comic art like R Crumb’s Genesis and the very Flash Gordon comics that inspired Lucas as a boy. Film memorabilia runs the gamut from The Wizard of Oz to Casablanca to The Ten Commandments. (And, yes, Star Wars, as if there was ever any doubt.)

Check out Desmarais’ critical take on the fledgling collection here.

Lucas originally wanted to build his museum in a classical-style building in Crissy Field. But the size of the project and some locals’ desire that Crissy Field remain a field sent him packing.

Last spring, Lucas ran up the white flag on a years-long effort to build a floppy-ceilinged version in Chicago instead, where neighborhood groups stymied him at every turn in a decidedly San Francisco-like drama.

The proposed Treasure Island site is in some ways the best possible place for an enormous new development, the island being the most underdeveloped, under populated, least doted upon district in all of San Francisco. It’s hard to whip up neighborhood opposition when there’s not much neighborhood to begin with.

The deal isn’t final, though; LA is still making a bid to be the institution’s home as well. And while San Francisco has the advantage of being Lucas’ quasi hometown (he grew up in Modesto but did his earliest work in the Bay Area and founded Lucasfilm here), LA can’t help but be a potentially attractive site for a museum largely built around film.