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Museum Review: Experience Music Project, Seattle, WA


Museums can be pop culture! Just ask the Experience Music Project in Seattle! Brigitte and I visited this fine museum when we traveled to the Emerald City last week, and boy did we have a good time. It was the most fun I've ever had at a museum, maybe ever. As it turns out, much fun and learning can be had at museums. In this (possibly one-time) new feature, I explore the plusses, the minuses, and the straight up weird, wild stuff about this particular museum, the Experience Music Project.

The Experience Music Project is located at the base of the Space Needle in Seattle, right by the sadly vacant-of-NBA-teams Key Arena. (RIP, Seattle SuperSonics. Screw you, Oklahoma City Thunder.) Although the Space Needle is not as great of a neighborhood as where Safeco Field and Qwest...er...CenturyLink Field are, the Space Needle area is interesting in its own charming way. (See: the really weird, creepy looking store with a giant skull for a sign.)

Entering the EMP, one immediately notices the giant video screen, dubbed the Sky Church, in the central hall. This four-story screen, however, differentiates itself from other museum screens in that it shows cool stuff like Beastie Boys videos instead of boring stuff like nature. There is another screen where you purchase tickets that was, at the time, showing videos by hip bands like Minus the Bear and The Decemberists. Immediately upon checking in, I realized that this was my kind of museum.

The main exhibit I was most excited about was the Nirvana exhibit. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nevermind (HOLY CRAP 20 YEARS WHAAAAAAAAAAT) and it did not disappoint. The exhibit is loaded with memorabilia from Nirvana's early years, props from shows on their megatours, and music booths sampling music from the Pacific Northwest, the underground rock scene in general, and a final booth featuring the records that were, in so many words, labeled as the "lame post-grunge" records that happen to be most of the CDs I currently own. (Sad.) Although I was saddened to hear the many teens asking their parents when they could leave (because they don't remember Nirvana, because they're freakin' young, and also we're freakin' old), this exhibit is curated gorgeously. It tells a story that actually educates when it could have gotten by just with the really cool Dave Grohl drumset. Well done, Nirvana exhibit.

Less impressive was the Avatar exhibit. Yes, the Avatar exhibit. As in, the 3-D movie / ride (I don't classify it as an actual movie, see) from James Cameron. Has its own exhibit. Showing things. From the movie / ride, Avatar. I was so perplexed by this exhibit that I said aloud to myself when I entered, "I'm not sure Avatar is worthy of its own exhibit." The friendly EMP staff responded to my musing with, "Yeah, I kinda agree." There it is, folks: the people working at the museum officially do not know why there is an Avatar exhibit. Perhaps most infuriating was the educational material about why the Na'vi race looks like the people who enter their bodies via Avatar technology. See, the reason they look similar is because they go inside their body and inhibit some of the same traits, so...wait a second...IT IS ALL MADE UP!!! Now, if the exhibit focused less on the size of a Na'vi person(?)'s head, since, y'know, Na'vi people are not real, and more about the actual making of the film, I would have been slightly more interested. Sadly (or, happily on the ironic level), this was not the case.

One other cool feature of the EMP were the Sound Booths. Interactive museum exhibits are totally my favorite, so I had a blast jamming in a sound booth with Brigitte and our friend Arun. No complaints there - I like to play with interactive museum exhibits. Fun times. There is also a Battlestar Galactica exhibit, which looked really cool and would have been even cooler if I have ever seen the show. (Yeah, seriously, I co-host a TV podcast and have yet to watch Battlestar. I know. I'll get to it, I promise.) And of course, there is the namesake exhibit, the Jimi Hendrix Experience exhibit that was pretty cool, too. That Jimi Hendrix fella sure has skinny legs. Which reminds me of a funny story Brigitte relayed to me about her dad, frequent Blogulator commenter Papa Thor:

Brigitte: "Jimi Hendrix is arguably the greatest guitar player of all time."
Papa Thor: "Arguably? ARGUABLY? What's arguable about it? He IS the greatest guitar player of all time!"

Overall, this was, in all honesty, a very fun and, at times, very effectively educational museum. If you are ever in the Seattle area, I highly recommend budgeting a few hours at the Experience Music Project.

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  1. Blogger Unspar! | 8:41 AM |  

    Bums me out that we spent our time on boring Seattle stuff like the art museum while we were there. I wish I had read this three months ago. Now, if there's ever a reason for me to return to Seattle, I'll check this out.

  2. Blogger P. Arty | 1:02 PM |  

    I went there with a group of actuaries when we were there for a professional seminar. No one played any instruments, but those booths were still awesome. Going there with you guys and Arun would have been amazing!

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