Unlike any other museum in Seattle or the world, the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the EMP Museum) is a leading-edge institution dedicated to the promotion of ideas, particularly risk-taking ideas that fuel our future and determine the trajectory of pop culture. Offering exhibits from the worlds of science fiction, music, and, of course, popular culture, the limits are pretty much endless at this most unique of Seattle attractions.
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Museum of Pop Culture History
Originally called the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame or EMP|SFM, the Museum of Pop Culture is a truly unique addition to the Seattle cultural landscape. It was founded by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, as an institution dedicated to the very modern concepts of innovation and ideas in the 21st century. It opened in 2000 to near-instant acclaim and has been a Seattle landmark ever since.
Although the “history” of the Museum of Pop Culture is relatively sparse, it is still a notable point of interest from a design perspective. The building, located at 325 5th Avenue N in the Seattle Center, was designed by renowned modern architect Frank O. Gehry who has been called “the most important architect of our age” by Vanity Fair magazine. Gehry’s design is innovative beyond measure not only standing out as a thoroughly modern addition to the Seattle skyline, but also as the first if Gehry’s buildings in the Pacific Northwest, and a standard bearer of the computer-aided three-dimensional interactive application (CATIA) technique which Gehry pioneered.
Gehry’s design uses multiple textures and colors to create an energetic effect that is meant to represent the “fluidity of music.” The building is comprised of 3,000 panels which are made of over 21,000 individual pieces of stainless steel and aluminum shingles. The color effects of this design are such that the building does not have a specific tone, but changes according to the position of the sun and the position of the viewer. It is truly a magical sight.
In addition to the majesty of the building itself, the Museum of Pop Culture also contains a rich selection of modern cultural artifacts inside its four walls. The 140,000 square foot building is home to the world’s largest indoor LED screen as well as several rotating interactive exhibits which hit on every aspect of pop culture and modern life. Because of the thoroughly modern focus of the Museum of Pop Culture, none of its exhibits are truly “permanent,” though there is a clear distinction between the current offerings and so-called “travelling” exhibits which are subject to a far more limited engagement.
The museum does, however, contain a few permanent pieces of note. This includes an amazing guitar sculpture made from more than 500 other instruments and 30 computers and an extensive collection of memorabilia from the Seattle grunge scene including items from Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix.
The Museum of Pop Culture is also heavily involved in promoting the most recent of additions onto the popular cultural scene which includes presenting the annual Science Fiction Short Film Festival. This pairs nicely with its SciFi arts displays, collectively known as the Science Fiction Project, which is designed to capture the history of the genre.
Museum of Pop Culture: The Main Attraction
The Museum of Pop Culture is open year round, seven days a week, though it features extended hours during the summer months. Admission includes entrance to all exhibits, experiences, and installations currently on display. Tickets are priced for Adults (18-64), Seniors (65+), Youth (5-17), Students (with I.D.), and Military (with I.D.); children ages 4 and younger are free. Group rates are available for parties of 15 or more and 30 or more.
The only additional element of the EMP experience is the audio guide, an iPod rental that features a self-guided tour route through all of EMP’s galleries. The audio tour also includes some of the music from artists featured in the museum.
In addition to its regular galleries and rotating exhibits, the Museum of Pop Culture is an important element of the educational and entertainment landscape of the Seattle area. As such, it hosts a variety of events and workshops throughout the year which offer guests additional insight into the topics that the museum features. Clearly, this includes the Science Fiction Film Festival held in late January or early February as well as a variety of events and creativity camps for teens and other young people designed to fuel innovation in the next generation of artists and thinkers.
Why the Museum of Pop Culture is a Must-See
The very idea of the Museum of Pop Culture sets it apart from pretty much any museum anywhere in the U.S. or the world. At the heart of Seattle’s cultural landscape in Seattle Center, this institution which is dedicated to education and innovation stands as an emblem of where we are and where we are going. It provides a unique and fascinating experience for thinkers and dreamers of all ages and is an ultimate must-see. Nearby is the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center and Chihuly Garden and Glass