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EMP Museum


EMP Museum

View of EMP Museum from the Seattle Center with the monorail traveling through it
Monorail tracks going through the EMP building

EMP Museum is a nonprofit museum, dedicated to contemporary popular culture. EMP Museum was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000. Since that time EMP has organized dozens of exhibits, 17 of which have toured across the US and internationally.

The museum, formerly known as Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (EMP|SFM), has founded numerous public programs including Sound Off! an annual 21 and under battle-of-the-bands that supports the all-ages scene and Pop Conference an annual gathering of academics, critics, musicians and music buffs.

EMP, in collaboration with the Seattle International Film Festival SIFF presents the Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival, which takes place annually every winter at Seattle Cinerama Theater.


  • Activities 1
  • Exhibits 2
  • Science Fiction Museum 3
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame 4
  • Architecture 5
  • Finances 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


EMP Museum is home to exhibits, interactive activity stations, sound sculpture, and various educational resources.

The Sky church
Nighttime view of EMP Museum
  • A 140,000-square-foot (13,000 m2) building, designed by Frank O. Gehry, that houses multiple galleries as well as the Sky Church, which features a Barco C7 black package LED screen, one of the largest indoor LED screens in the world.[1]
  • Exhibits that cover pop culture, from the art of fantasy, horror cinema, and video games to science fiction literature and costumes from screen and stage.
  • Interactive activities included in galleries like Sound Lab and On Stage where visitors can explore hands-on the tools of rock 'n' roll through instruments, and perform music before a virtual audience.
  • IF VI WAS IX, a guitar sculpture consisting of more than 500 musical instruments and 30 computers conceived by UK exhibit designer Neal Potter and developed by sound sculptor Trimpin. [2][3]
  • The largest collections in the world of rare artifacts, hand-written lyrics, personal instruments, and original photographs celebrating the music and history of Seattle musicians Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix.
  • Educational resources including EMP's Curriculum Connections in-museum workshops and outreach programs; STAR (Student Training in Artistic Reach); Creativity Camps for Kids; Teen Artist Workshops; and Write Out of This World, an annual sci-fi and fantasy short story contest for 3rd to 12th graders.
  • Public programs such as EMP’s Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival, Pop Conference, the Youth Advisory Board (YAB), and Sound Off! the Northwest’s premier battle-of-the-bands.
An exterior view of the building


Past exhibits include:

  • Hear My Train a Comin': Hendrix Hits London, featuring lyrics, personal instruments, original photographs, outfits, and concert footage, Hear My Train a Comin': Hendrix Hits London celebrates the musician's 70th birthday .
  • Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, featuring more than 200 iconic instruments, original poster artwork, photographs, albums, and 100 new and archived oral histories from key figures in the independent music scene, Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses is an extensive exhibition of memorabilia celebrating the music and history of Nirvana.
  • Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic, with artifacts from literature, video games, and comics; and celebrated costumes from TV and film, including The Princess Bride, The Wizard of Oz, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Labyrinth.
  • Can't Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film, an in-depth look at horror, and how it’s expressed through cinema, biology, history, and contemporary culture. Visitors can view artifacts, and get into the minds of monster makers past and present.
  • Icons of Science Fiction, featuring artifacts from sci-fi literature, film, television, and art, including an Imperial Dalek from Doctor Who, Neo’s coat from The Matrix Reloaded, and Captain Kirk’s command chair from Star Trek.
  • Guitar Gallery: The Quest for Volume[4]

Instruments on display span the development of the guitar through the lives and accomplishments of innovators such as Orville Gibson, Leo Fender, and Les Paul, and the musicians who played them to fame such as Bo Diddley, Dave Davies of the Kinks, Eddie Van Halen, and Kurt Cobain.

  • Women Who Rock: Vision Passion Power (June 2013 – September 2013)
  • The Gehry Experience (June 2000 – January 2001)[5]
  • Hendrix Gallery (June 2000 – April 2003)[6]
  • Milestones Gallery (June 2000 – October 2004)
  • Northwest Passage (June 2000 – January 2011)[7]
  • Artist to Icon: Early Photographs of Elvis, Dylan, and the Beatles (January 19, 2001 – May 1, 2001)[8]
  • Island Revolution: Jamaican Rhythm from Ska to Reggae, 1956–1981 (June 2001 – January 2002)[9]
  • The LP Show (February – April 2002)[10]
  • Uncommon Objects (May – September 2002)[11]
  • Memphis Spotlight (July 2002 – January 2003)
  • Jay Blakesberg's Grateful Dead (September 2002 – November 2003)
  • Ella Fitzgerald Spotlight (January 2003 – April 2003)
  • Disco: A Decade of Saturday Night (February 2003 – October 2003)
  • Yes Yes Y’all: The Birth of Hip-Hop (May 2003 – September 2003)[12]
  • Nirvana Spotlight (April 2003 – October 2004)
  • George Hunt's Conjurating the Blues: The High Cotton Tour (May – July 2003).[13][14]
  • Paper Scissors ROCK: 25 Years of Northwest Punk Poster Design (May 2003 – September 2003)
  • Jimi Hendrix (June 7, 2003 – August 5, 2007)
  • Upsetting the Stage: Pop In Progress (July 2003 – October 2003)
  • Sweet Home Chicago, Big City Blues, 1946–1966 Traveling Exhibition (September 2003 – January 2004)
  • More Noise Please: A Portrait of Steven Jesse Bernstein (October 2003 – February 2004)[15]
  • American Music: Photographs by Annie Leibovitz (November 2003 – January 2004)[16]
  • Springsteen: Troubadour of the Highway (January 2004 – April 2004)
  • Costumes from the Vault (June 2004 – January 2007)
  • Beatlemania! America Meets the Beatles, 1964 (February 2004 – December 2005)
  • Songcraft: The Art & Craft of Songwriting (July 2004 – January 2006)
  • KISS Spotlight (October 2004 – January 2006)
  • Bob Dylan's American Journey, 1956–1966 (November 2004 – October 2006)
  • Yes Yes Y'all: The First Decade of Hip-Hop (June 18, 2005 – January 6, 2008)
  • Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion (May 2006 – October 2006)
  • DoubleTake: From Monet to Lichtenstein (April 2006 – January 2007)
  • Disney: The Music Behind the Magic (November 4, 2006 – September 9, 2007)
  • American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music (October 13, 2007 – September 7, 2008)
  • Message to Love: Remembering and Reclaiming Jimi Hendrix (January 26, 2008 – April 6, 2008)
  • Jimi Hendrix: An Evolution of Sound (April 26, 2008 – September 24, 2012)
  • American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print (October 11, 2008 – July 16, 2009)
  • Gelatine Lux (November 2009 – April 2010)[17]
  • Taking Aim: Unforgettable Rock 'n' Roll Photographs Selected by Graham Nash (February 6, 2009 – May 23, 2010)
  • Spaced Out: The Final Frontier in Album Covers (August 2009 – January 2010)
  • Reflections: The Mary Wilson Supreme Legacy Collection (June 11, 2010 – September 6, 2010)
  • Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition (October 2010 – March 2012)
  • Avatar: The Exhibition (June 2011 – September 2012)[18]
  • AC/DC: Australia's Family Jewels (April 2012 – September 2012)
  • Worn to Be Wild: The Black Leather Jacket (October 2012 – May 2013)

Science Fiction Museum

The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame was founded by Paul Allen and Jody Patton and opened to the public on June 18, 2004. It incorporated the formerly independent Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame established in 1996 (below). The museum was divided into several galleries with common themes such as "Homeworld," "Fantastic Voyages," "Brave New Worlds," and "Them!" Each gallery displayed related memorabilia (movie props, first editions, costumes, and models) in large display cases, posters, and interactive displays to sketch out the different subjects. "From robots to jet packs to space suits and ray guns, it's all here."[19] Members of the museum's advisory board included Captain Kirk's command chair from Star Trek, the B9 robot from Lost in Space, the Death Star model from Star Wars, the T800 Terminator and the dome from the film Silent Running. Although the Science Fiction Museum as a permanent collection was de-installed in March 2011, a new exhibit named Icons of Science Fiction opened as a replacement in June 2012,[20][21] at which time the new Hall of Fame display was unveiled and the class of 2012 inducted.[22][23]

Selected past exhibitions
  • Alien Encounters (September 10, 2006 – October 30, 2007)

Featured 33 original paintings showing how artists portrayed alien beings during the past 70 years. Artists included hall of fame illustrators Frank Kelly Freas and Ed Emshwiller.

  • Out of this World: Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television (June 16, 2007 – September 30, 2007)

Featured costumes from Star Wars, Blade Runner, The Terminator, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and many more popular films and television shows.

  • Innersphere: Sculptural Works by Rik Allen (November 17, 2007 – April 27, 2008)

Featured glass and metal sculptural rocket ships, symbolizing journeys of outward exploration and inward discovery, by Washington artist Rik Allen.

  • Jim Henson's Fantastic World (May 23 – August 16, 2009)

Provided a rare peek into the imagination and genius of Jim Henson, creator of Kermit the Frog, Big Bird, and other beloved characters.[24]

  • Robots: A Designer's Collection of Miniature Mechanical Marvels (May 16, 2008 – May 3, 2009)

Featured a collection from designer Tom Geismar, inspired by antique tin and wooden toys, samurai warriors, and mid-20th-century Japanese film characters.

  • Gelatine Lux (November 21, 2009 – April 11, 2010)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame was founded in 1996 by the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (Kansas City, Missouri) and the Center for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF) at the University of Kansas (KU). The Chairmen were Keith Stokes (1996–2001) and Robin Wayne Bailey (2002–2004). Only writers and editors were eligible for recognition and four were inducted annually, two deceased and two living. Each class of four was announced at Kansas City's annual science fiction convention, ConQuesT, and inducted at the Campbell Conference hosted by CSSF.[25][26]

The Hall of Fame stopped inducting fantasy writers after 2004, when it became part of the Science Fiction Museum affiliated with EMP, under the name "Science Fiction Hall of Fame". Having inducted 36 writers in nine years, in 2005 it began to recognize non-literary media.[25] It retained the quota of four new members and thus reduced the annual number of writers. The 2005 and 2006 press releases placed new members in "Literature", "Art", and "Film, Television and Media", and "Open" categories, one each.[27][28] In 2007 and 2008 the fourth inductee was placed in one of the three substantial categories.[29][30]

EMP de-installed the Science Fiction Museum in March 2011. When the exhibition "Icons of Science Fiction" opened in June 2012, a new Hall of Fame display was unveiled and the class of 2012 inducted.[20][21][22]

Nominations are submitted by EMP Museum members but the selections are made by "award-winning science fiction authors, artists, editors, publishers, and film professionals."[31]

EMP restored the original name online during June 2013 and announced five new members, one daily, beginning June 17. The first four were cited largely or wholly for science fiction but the last was J. R. R. Tolkien, "hailed as the father of modern fantasy literature".[32]

The class of 2014 brings the number of members to 79, four annually except five in 2008 and 2013–2014.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inductions[25][33]


Design by Frank Gehry

EMP is located on the campus of Seattle Center, adjacent to the Space Needle and the Seattle Center Monorail, which runs through the building. The structure itself was designed by Frank Gehry, and resembles many of his firm's other works in its sheet-metal construction, such as Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Gehry Tower. Much of the building material is exposed in the building's interior. The building contains 140,000 square feet (13,000 m2), with a 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) footprint. The name of the museum's central Sky Church pays homage to Jimi Hendrix. A concert venue capable of holding up to 800 guests, Sky Church boasts 70-foot ceilings, state-of-the-art sound and lighting, and a mammoth indoor HD LED screen.[37] The last structural steel beam to be put in place bears the signatures of all construction workers who were on site on the day it was erected. Hoffman Construction Company of Portland, Oregon was the general contractor. Magnusson Klemencic Associates of Seattle, Washington were the structural engineers for the project.[38]

Even before groundbreaking, Seattle Weekly said the design could refer to "the often quoted comparison to a smashed electric guitar." Indeed, Gehry himself had made the comparison, "We started collecting pictures of Stratocasters, bringing in guitar bodies, drawing on those shapes in developing our ideas."[39] The architecture was greeted by Seattle residents with a mixture of acclaim for Gehry and derision for this particular edifice. "Frank Gehry," remarked British-born, Seattle-based writer Jonathan Raban, "has created some wonderful buildings, like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, but his Seattle effort, the Experience Music Project, is not one of them."[40] New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp described it as "something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over, and died."[41] Forbes magazine called it one of the world's 10 ugliest buildings.[41] Others describe it as a "blob"[42] or call it "The Hemorrhoids".[40] Despite some critical reviews of the structure, the building has been called “a fitting backdrop for the world's largest collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia.”[43] The outside of the building which features a fusion of textures and colors, including gold, silver, deep red, blue and a "shimmering purple haze,"[44] has been declared "an apt representation of the American rock experience."[45]


The museum has had mixed financial success.[46][47] In an effort to raise more funds, museum organizers used Allen's extensive art collection to create a 2006 exhibit within the confines of the EMP.[48] The exhibit was entitled DoubleTake: From Monet to Lichtenstein. The exhibit included oral history recordings.[50] The museum's recent exhibitions have ranged from horror cinema, video games, and black leather jackets to fantasy film and literature.


  1. ^
  2. ^ During 1997 Neal worked alongside Frank Gehry Architects and the EMP curatorial team to establish a masterplan for the attraction. The detail design was undertaken locally. Originally called "The Collision Sculpture", the point of collision of different genres of music to create Rock and Roll. A living electronic sculpture as relevant today as it might have been in 1955
  3. ^ More than 500 musical instruments and 30 computers were used to create IF VI WAS IX. Created by Seattle-based sound sculptor, Trimpin, IF VI WAS IX is equipped with earphones that allow audiences to tune into the various musical permutations performed.
  4. ^ ...there were music exhibits showcasing Jimi Hendrix (Hear My Train a Comin’: Hendrix Hits London), Nirvana (Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses) and the guitar (Guitar Gallery: The Quest for Volume).
  5. ^ [1]. The Gehry Experience closed on Jan. 1, 2001, and Artist to Icon debuts Jan. 19.
  6. ^ [2]. The original Hendrix Gallery, which debuted at EMP during the grand opening in 2000...
  7. ^ Catch EMP's 'Northwest Passage' exhibit while you can. The wide-ranging exhibition of Northwest music will close permanently Jan. 3, making room for a Nirvana exhibit scheduled to open in April.
  8. ^ Rahner, Mark (January 19, 2001). "Photos showcase Elvis, Beatles and Dylan before fame, and at the brink". The Seattle Times. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ A celebration of a different kind took place at Experience Music Project on Thursday, January 31, as loads of folks showed up to fete the opening of the museum's newest exhibit, The LP Show.
  11. ^ The Experience Music Project brings together dozens of these artifacts of celebrity in the new show "Uncommon Objects".
  12. ^ "EMP unveils hip-hop and punk exhibits". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. May 7, 2003. 
  13. ^ Hunt's exhibit, "Conjurating the Blues: The High Cotton Tour," is on view at Seattle Center's Experience Music Project through July 8.
  14. ^
  15. ^ On 10/10/03 More Noise Please: A Portrait of Poet Steven Jesse Bernstein opened at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.
  16. ^ "American Music: Photographs by Annie Leibovitz," based on her new book, "American Music"; opens tomorrow and runs through Jan. 19, 2004, at Experience Music Project.
  17. ^ Upchurch, Michael (November 20, 2009). Gelatine Lux' at EMP/SFM shows wonders of the sea and imagination made of glass"'". The Seattle Times. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame". Travel Guides: Seattle. The New York Times. July 7, 2009. Archived 2009-07-07. Retrieved 2013-04-27. Footer: "Content Provided by Frommer's Unlimited. Excerpted from Frommer's Seattle 2009 © 2009  [ — space — ]  Powered By Frommers".
  20. ^ a b Kareiva, Celina (January 19, 2012). "Coming to EMP: Hendrix, AC/DC — and some leather, too". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2012-01-22.
  21. ^ a b "Guide to EMP's 'Icons of Science Fiction'". CBS Seattle. May 22, 2012. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  22. ^ a b c "Science Fiction Hall of Fame: EMP Museum Announces the 2012 Science Fiction Hall of Fame Inductees". EMP Museum ( Version 2011–2012 at Internet Archive. Archived 2012-07-22. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  23. ^ "Science Fiction Hall of Fame". EMP Museum ( Archived 2013-05-31. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
  24. ^ "Jim Henson's Fantastic World". Exhibitions / Past Exhibitions. Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum ( Version 2007–2011 at Internet Archive. Archived 2010-12-03. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  25. ^ a b c "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame" (official website to 2004). Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  26. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". 2005(?). Center for the Study of Science Fiction ( University of Kansas. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
  27. ^ a b "It's Official! Inductees Named for 2005 Hall of Fame Class". Press release March 24, 2005. Science Fiction Museum ( Archived 2005-03-26. Retrieved 2013-03-22.
  28. ^ a b "Presenting the 2006 Hall of Fame Inductees". Press release March 15, 2006. Science Fiction Museum ( Archived April 26, 2006. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
  29. ^ a b "Science Fiction Hall of Fame to Induct Ed Emshwiller, Gene Roddenberry, Ridley Scott and Gene Wolfe". Press release March/April/May 2007. Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame ( Archived 2007-10-14. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  30. ^ a b "2008 Science Fiction Hall of Fame Ceremony Tickets On Sale May 15". Press release April/May 2008. Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame ( Archived 2008-05-10. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  31. ^ a b "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". EMP Museum ( Retrieved 2014-06-27.
  32. ^ a b "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". [June 17 to 21, 2013]. EMP Museum ( Archived 2013-06-23. Retrieved 2014-07-21.
  33. ^ "Science Fiction Hall of Fame". Science Fiction Awards Database ( Mark R. Kelly and the Locus Science Fiction Foundation. Retrieved 2014-07-21.
  34. ^ "EMP|SFM Announces its 2009 Science Fiction Hall of Fame Inductions". Press release 2009(?). Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame ( Archived 2009-08-14. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  35. ^ "Science Fiction Hall of Fame". [Quote: "EMP|SFM is proud to announce the 2010 Hall of Fame inductees: ..."]. Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame ( Archived 2010-03-25. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  36. ^ "Science Fiction Hall of Fame". [Quote: "EMP is proud to announce the 2011 Hall of Fame inductees: ..."]. May/June/June 2011. EMP Museum ( Archived 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  37. ^ Benedetti, Winda (June 22, 2000). "The Sky Church: A sanctuary for rock disciples". Seattle PI. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ Downey, Roger (February 18, 1998). "Experience This!". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2006-10-22.
  40. ^ a b Raban, Jonathan (April 4, 2004). "Deference to nature keeps Seattle from becoming world-class city]". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  41. ^ a b Barnett, Erica C. (June 17, 2004). "EMPty: The Experience Music Project is a flop on all fronts—financial, musical, and intellectual". The Stranger. Retrieved 2006-11-24. 
  42. ^ Cheek, Lawrence W. (September 26, 2006). "On Architecture: Corrugated steel is a nice wrinkle". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  43. ^ "Experience Music Project Review". Seattle. Fodor's Travel Guides ( Archived 2010-08-18. Retrieved 2013-04-27.
  44. ^ Enlow, Clair (July 12, 2000). "Frank Gehry Rock Temple". Architecture Week 9.
  45. ^ Skelton, Lauren (2008). "EMP: Experience Music Project". Archived 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2013-04-27.
  46. ^ Cook, John (January 8, 2002). "Recent layoffs at local companies: Experience Music Project". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2006-10-22.
  47. ^ Associated Press (March 22, 2005). "Experience Music Project still struggling five years later". USA Today. Retrieved 2006-10-22.
  48. ^ Farr, Sheila (November 29, 2005). "Paul Allen's Experience Art Project". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2006-10-22.
  49. ^ "Full List of Works Announced for Upcoming DoubleTake: From Monet to Lichtenstein Exhibition". Press release. March 21, 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-22.
    "From Monet to Lichtenstein: Exclusively @ EMP". Press releases 2005/2006 (directory). Archived 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2013-04-27.
  50. ^ • "The EMP|SFM Oral History Program". Programs / Oral History. Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum ( Archived 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
    • "The EMP|SFM Oral History Program". Programs / Oral History. EMP Museum ( Archived 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2013-03-19.

External links

  • EMP Museum official website
  • SeattleWiki: Experience Music Project
  • Experience Music Project at
  • New Interfaces for Musical Expression – NIME-01
  • "Exhibitions / Past Exhibitions". Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum ( Archived 2007-09-23. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  • "Exhibitions / Past Exhibitions". Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum ( Archived 2011-01-27. Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  • "Exhibitions / Past Exhibitions". EMP Museum ( Archived 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2013-03-19.

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