When I was planning my recent four-day stay in Seattle, one of the attractions I knew I couldn’t miss was the Experience Music Project pop culture Museum. I’ve been curious about visiting the EMP. since it was first in construction, which was about 15 years ago. Originally, it’s my understanding that the museum was being built and funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to house his extensive Jimi Hendrix memorabilia collection. But obviously, it’s expanded quite a bit since that original, rather narrow concept.
Conveniently located in the Seattle Center, literally in the shadow of the Space Needle, and adjacent to several other top tourist attractions, the EMP is certainly one of the most unusual examples of modern architecture I’ve ever seen. When viewed from the top of the Space Needle, this Frank Gehry-designed structure looks like a Giant took a handful of various boxes of different shapes and colors, and stuck them all together. But this unique approach to modern design has created a fantastic space that provides exhibit halls for not only local music history and an extensive trip down memory lane with the Jimi Hendrix Experience in London, but separate wings for science fiction, fantasy film and literature, horror movies, and the current temporary exhibit highlighting Women Who Rock. Here are a few photos I took during my visit this past July.
Any Jimi Hendrix fan is going to be blown away by the Hendrix Experience Hits London section, which fills several ground floor galleries.
Not only will you see vintage, authentic stage costumes worn by Jimi, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, but the walls of the galleries are plastered with photographs, news clippings, magazine articles, vinyl albums and posters that telegraph the band’s rise to stardom after their initial visit to the UK. All I can say is, it must be nice to be Paul Allen.
Around the corner from the Hendrix exhibit is an exhaustive documentation of the Nirvana’s impact on the Seattle grunge punk music scene during the 90s. You could easily spend a couple of hours in this section, just reading all about some of the best bands that came from this genre-defining region of the country such as Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and many other Sub Pop signings as well as projects from legendary genre producers such as Jack Endino.
In addition to extensive documentation, Photos, Personal Letters, CD covers, magazine articles, costumes and props, there’s also one of Dave Grohl’s drum kits and other one-of-a-kind memorabilia. Whoever created this part of the museum did so with a good deal of love.
Fantasy film enthusiasts will not want to miss the Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic exhibit where I enjoyed seeing costumes such as those worn by David Bowie in the film Labyrinth as well as many other props and costumes from classic films such as The Hobbit, the Wizard of Oz and Clash of the Titans, to name but a few.
On another floor there’s an exhibit dedicated to Icons of Science Fiction. Not only are there props and costumes from science-fiction films, but also there are small exhibits on popular books of the genre that laid the foundation for much of the visual media that came in their wake.
Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film is also a very fun exhibit. Aside from the expected props and costumes, you can personalize your experience by participating in interactive exhibits including the Scream Booth and Philip Worthington’s interactive shadow monster installation – which is just insane.
Rest your weary feet with time spent in a dozen video kiosks where you can sit in near darkness and watch horror film clips (commentary included) curated by directors Roger Corman, John Landis and Eli Roth. Super fun and also very educational!
The museum’s top floor is home to a large interactive studio recording exhibit, where you can actually play instruments and record your own music. It’s also where you’ll find the museums latest exhibit, Women Who Rock, which just opened in June. Women Who Rock does an ambitious job of documenting female artists from the 50s through to present including pioneers such as Brenda Lee, Leslie Gore, Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Specter and many of the girl groups through to the punk rock movement, groundbreaking all-female rock groups such as The Runaways and The GoGos and on to superstar solo artists from Madonna to Shakira and, of course Lady Gaga. Unfortunately, my camera battery ran out just as we were entering this particular exhibit, so the only photos I have are ones I pulled from EMP’s website.
The Experience Music Project is a must-see destination for any music and film fan’s trip to the beautiful and vibrant city of Seattle. Exhibits change from time to time so make sure you consult the museum’s website to find out what they have in house during your planned visit.
The EMP Museum is located at 325 5th Avenue N, Seattle Center, WA, convenient to the Seattle Center Monorail. Hours are 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM Daily. Visit This Link for additional exhibit schedule and admission information.