Laura’s Mini was up for routine maintenance. One of the problems we discovered when we moved up here was that the nearest Mini Cooper dealership was all the way down in Seattle. Regardless, we made a morning appointment for Tuesday of this week. Since we were already down in the Seattle area, we began looking for other things to do in town. We settled on the Museum of Pop Culture.
We really haven’t spent much time in Seattle at all. Usually we’re in a hurry to get up to the island and visit Laura’s parents. Even during this year of living up here we haven’t been down this way much other than to go to the airport. I did a quick excursion before Christmas, but we just haven’t gotten down that way.
We hit a couple of tourist spots like the Space Needle back in 2007, but that’s about it. We passed by the museum but opted not to visit. Back then I remember this building being the Science Fiction Museum, but I was only partially correct. The museum was founded by Paul Allen in 2000 as the Experience Music Project. In its first iteration it had the unwieldy name Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, or EMP|SFM, which was later shortened to the EMP. In November of 2016 it was rebranded as the Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPop.
It being the tourist off-season and the middle of the week we had no problems getting to the museum and finding parking very close to the building. It was lunch time, so we stopped at the Wolfgang Puck cafe in the museum for lunch. Compared to the parking, lunch was surprisingly reasonable. Museum entrance fees, however, were not. At $28 per person it was a bit pricey. Since we would get a discount and the price would be almost a wash, we opted for a year’s membership.
Our first encounter was the massive sculpture some have dubbed the “Guitarnado.” It is a vortex of instruments of all types, not just guitars. Some guitars are rigged so that they play automatically creating an ethereal music. These weren’t playing when we visited.
On the second floor they had several exhibits for pop music. There was an exhibit of photography by Mick Rock covering David Bowie’s life during 1972-73. It was a fascinating display.
There were exhibits for Seattle natives Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. We spent more time in the Jimi Hendrix exhibit. There were personal effects, photographs, and guitars, including the Fender Stratocaster he played at Woodstock.
The music exhibits open onto the Sky Church, a large event space with an enormous screen. Music videos were playing.
To our left a portal led to the South Wing and to the exhibits I really wanted to see – the Science Fiction (and Fantasy) Museum.
Of course, I headed straight to the “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” exhibit. These were up another set of steps.
The exhibit covered all series and movies associated with Star Trek, with the exception of Star Trek Discovery. There were ship models, original props used in the movies, and original costumes and uniforms, such as Kirk’s tunic from the Mirror Universe and the Gorn outfit.
The centerpiece was a mockup of the Enterprise bridge with mannequins wearing original uniforms from the show and original set pieces from the bridge. These included the original command chair, navigation console, one one peripheral console.
What amused (but didn’t surprise) me was the overall chintziness of the props. These had colored cellophane and electrical tape, and they had not aged well. Even back in their heyday I suspect they looked just as chintzy. However, these were just supposed to look convincing on a small, low-resolution television screen, not convincing in real life. They fulfilled that mission quite nicely. As televisions improved, so did the quality of the props.
To say that I geeked out big time would be an understatement. Of course, I had to do a couple of poses.
There were other SciFi worlds awaiting, though. One area had props and costumes from just about every popular science fiction movie or TV show from the last several decades.
The adjoining room held props from horror movies. Laura refused to enter and I just popped my head in, but didn’t take photos.
Laura found a door that I had missed that led into the Fantasy portion of the museum. Here we found original movie props from the Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, The Princess Bride, and the Lord of the Rings.
We headed back to the main wing of the building. The Music Exploration exhibit had more displays of pop musicians, including guitars that had belonged to Eric Clapton, Woodie Guthrie, and Muddy Waters.
The main part of the exhibit, though, was a collection of instruments and booths where visitors could use to learn and jam. There were drums, keyboards, and guitars, as well as an elaborate rhythm table. I left wanting to add an electric guitar to my collection, much to Laura’s dismay.
We had been in the museum for a couple of hours at this point. As we were heading out I saw that we has missed the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. This turned out to be a small room, but packed with memorabilia. There was Indiana Jones’s iconic hat and leather jacket, Isaac Asimov’s typewriter, and several other movie props.
We didn’t leave empty-handed. In addition to our season pass Laura bought me a Star Trek mug as a souvenir.
We used up all of the time we’d allotted for parking inside the museum. We thought we might ride the monorail, but the afternoon really did slip away.
We weren’t quite done in Seattle, though. We took Highway 99 across the Aurora Bridge north into Fremont. From there we headed to the Archie McPhee store. It did not disappoint.
We didn’t escape from there empty-handed, either. I bought some Bigfoot mints and was allowed to spin a wheel for a prize. I won a steampunk sleep mask. Maybe I can use that at Burning Man.
There are so many for-profit museums that turn out to be mildly amusing tourist traps, but I’ve come across several that were well worth the price of admission. The Spy Museum in Washington DC is one such venue. MoPop is non-profit, according to their website, but to me it gives off the aura of a for-profit outfit. Even so, I had a blast, and if you’ve got the time it’s well worth it.
One thought on “A Visit to the Museum of Pop Culture”
Thanks for sharing Tom. Will need to check that out on the next trip to North West. Meantime found a nice seafood place on West Wade Hampton Blvd in Greer. Owners are from Massachusetts. Clams are just like from the Cape. Keep up reports of your adventures.