There aren’t many places where you can view both Disney animation storyboards and Britney Spears’ red “Oops!...I Did it Again” jumpsuit under one roof. Add exhibits featuring Annie Leibovitz’ photographs of rock ‘n’ roll artists and a collection of miniature robots, and you’ve got yourself a trip to the Experience Music Project (EMP) near the base of the Space Needle.
Since the museum opened its doors in 2000, more than 4.5 million visitors have come to experience the history and culture of varied music genres, including rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop, blues, punk, and jazz. Popular installations include a floor-to-ceiling pillar of guitars and an interactive sound lab where visitors can record their own music.
Los Angeles architect Frank O. Gehry designed the building—a 140,000-square-foot structure whose exterior resembles what might result from smashing a giant paint-filled guitar onto the pavement. Not surprisingly, Gehry received his inspiration from music. He bought several electric guitars, cut them into pieces, and assembled them into a psychedelic shape reminiscent of the Jimi Hendrix days. Stainless steel and colored aluminum shingles, each individually cut and shaped, comprise the outer walls. The design features so much steel that according to the museum’s website, if you fashioned a guitar’s E string from all the metal used in construction, it would stretch 1.6 million miles—65 times the circumference of the earth.
Past exhibits have covered a range of music legends. The Tribute to Michael Jackson featured the sequined jacket and silver glove worn during M.J.’s debut “Moonwalk.” Beatlemania! included a 1962 set list handwritten by Paul McCartney. Jimi Hendrix was celebrated through a short documentary as well as an exhibit featuring artifacts like the Hendrix family stereo and the original Studio A mixing console.
Costume-lovers will find an extensive collection of get-ups worn by everyone from the stars of the original Batman and Superman series to James Brown, Elton John, Notorious B.I.G., members of KISS, and the late father of grunge: Seattle’s own Kurt Cobain.
Whether you’re there to see an exhibit of Jim Henson’s Muppet drawings or an interactive display of Chicago’s jazz scene between 1946 and 1966, the EMP will give you one heck of a musical education.
- Winter: 10am to 5pm daily
- Summer: 10am to 7pm daily
- Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
- Adults: $15
- Seniors, youth, students, military: $12
- Children under 4: Free
- Metro Stop:
- Bus Stop: 5th Ave. N. & Broad St.
- Monorail Stop: Seattle Center
- Location: 325 5th Ave. N., Seattle, WA
- Phone: 206-770-2700
- Website: www.empsfm.org