Five ways to enjoy the ''Lord of the Rings'' exhibit. The Museum of Science in Boston hosts the exhibition's only stop Stateside

By Brian Hiatt
Updated August 03, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Don’t tell Gollum, but we’ve found The Precious — and it’s in Boston. The One Ring itself, or rather, one of several ”One Rings” used onscreen, is among the artifacts on display at Boston’s Museum of Science in a new exhibition devoted to Peter Jackson’s blockbuster adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Here’s why ”LOTR” fans might want to forgo their New Zealand vacations this year in favor of a trip to Beantown (where the exhibit runs through Oct. 24).

1. You can visit the Hobbiton Mill. Many of the settings in ”LOTR” existed only as fantastically detailed miniatures. So visitors can grab a Sauron’s-eye view of the Hobbiton Mill, the Tower of Barad-dur, and The Tower of Orthanc. ”They’re miniatures, but they’re gigantic miniatures,” says exhibit planner Ed Rodley. ”Some of them are too big to travel — Rivendell filled entire rooms They refer to them as big-iatures.”

2. Check out Aragorn’s duds. From Gandalf’s cloak, hat, and sword to Arwen’s equestrian outfit, the exhibit gathers clothing and props from every major character. ”That’s the thing that really brings it to life for me,” says Az James, who helped develop the exhibit for the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. ”They made things that are absolutely perfect, but only appeared on screen for a second. It’s true craftmanship.”

3. Catch a creature feature. Want to meet Treebeard? A near-scale version of the friendly, ancient Ent is hanging out in the museum, as are a gigantic cave troll, a goblin, and detailed explanations of how the creatures came to flesh-chomping life.

4. Get cut down to Frodo’s size. Don’t tell anybody, but Elijah Wood isn’t THAT short. The forced-perspective tricks used to make the hobbits look teeny are illuminated in an exhibit that lets fans project themselves into a scene in ”Fellowship of the Ring” in which Gandalf and Frodo ride a donkey cart. ”There are two benches on two different scales, physically separated by a couple of feet, that a pair of cameras look at,” explains Rodley. ”When you composite those two images from those two cameras, the images seem to line up perfectly.”

5. Release your inner Gollum. Visitors can try out the motion-capture technology that sets Gollum a-crawlin’. Step in front of a special camera, and an on-screen digital doppelgänger — either a human, an orc, or an elf — will mimic your every move. And just like Andy Serkis (the actor who ”played” Gollum), you won’t get nominated for an Oscar — even if you really, really deserve one. Not that we’re bitter.