The Experience Music Project Museum has changed its name to the Museum of Pop Culture.
The new name — with the acronym MoPOP — reflects the Seattle nonprofit museum’s evolution from one focused on music to one that explores the phenomena of popular culture.
“For five or six years, we’ve had this seemingly strange dichotomy between music and science fiction, and what we really needed to become is this pop culture museum,” said Jasen Emmons, the director of curatorial affairs for MoPOP.
“As the museum has evolved, the original name no longer reflects what we’re doing in the museum, so we came up with a new name that really communicates to people this is what you can expect.”
Its mission as the Museum of Pop Culture is to celebrate the boundless and ever-changing expression of mainstream culture through entertainment, sports, fashion, technology, politics and more.
Since it opened 16 years ago, the Paul G. Allen museum has organized more than 57 exhibitions, 20 of which have traveled nationally and internationally. The museum, known for its futuristic Frank O. Gehry design, also hosts more than 100 arts and cultural events each year.
“As our exhibits and programs have broadened to include other pop-culture themes in addition to music — sci-fi, fantasy, video games, fashion, horror movies and so on — we’ve discovered that pop culture has really resonated with our audience,” museum spokeswoman Anita Woo said.
“It made sense to have a name that better reflected who we are as an institution.”
Its current exhibits reflect MoPOP’s exploration of pop culture: “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds,” “Indie Game Revolution,” “Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic,” “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses,” “We Are 12: The Seattle Seahawks and the Road to Victory,” “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film,” “Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction,” and “Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad, 1966-1970.”
The museum also is exhibiting “PUSH ME, PULL ME: Pearl Jam and the Art of the Screen-Printed Poster” at Sea-Tac Airport.
This year, MoPOP will open several new exhibitions and make updates to others.
The 2017 exhibition lineup includes the world premieres of “The Art of Rube Goldberg” (Feb. 11) and “The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited” (May 20), as well as an exhibit featuring the work of photographer Mick Rock titled “Starman Remembered: David Bowie” (July 1).
MoPOP will also add new film directors to its horror exhibition and unveil a new gallery in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, featuring some of the genres’ greatest creators and creations.
The museum holds a historical collection of about 140,000 artifacts and an oral history archive of more than 1,000 curator interviews with musicians, filmmakers, authors and others who have shaped and/or continue to shape contemporary culture. Its exhibits are updated every few years through a rotation of artifacts.
Its ongoing exhibits include the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, Guitar Gallery: The Quest for Volume, Sound Lab, On Stage and Sky Church, the mammoth indoor HD LED screen and space for concerts.
It was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen in 2000 as the Experience Music Project, named for its focus on rock ‘n’ roll legend Jimi Hendrix and his band The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
In 2004, the museum became the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. It later was renamed the EMP Museum.
“Jimi is really a touchstone for the museum,” Emmons said. “He was what inspired Paul Allen to actually open a museum in the first place, so we always have a gallery that reflects Jimi.”
Woo said the museum’s focus evolved naturally with Allen’s vision to create a space where visitors could learn about and play music.
“There are so many roles that music plays in pop culture,” she said. “Music is a key component in film, it plays a big role in fashion — it’s everywhere. That’s something we keep in mind when we organize our own exhibits.”
MoPOP is housed in a 140,000-square-foot building set amid the backdrop of the Seattle Center. It was built with more than 21,000 aluminum and stainless steel shingles and 280 steel ribs.
Architect Frank O. Gehry looked to music for his inspiration when designing the building. He bought several electric guitars and cut them into pieces. The guitar pieces served as the building blocks of his design.
The museum saw a record 743,533 visitors in 2015, up 26 percent from 2014. Of those visitors, 192,796 or 26 percent of them were students and youth. That’s a 50 percent increase from 2014.
In addition to its pop culture mission, the museum will continue to host arts and culture events that include the Seattle Mini Maker Faire, Pop Conference, Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival, Influencers Concert Series, Power Up! Gaming Days, Black History Month, 31 Days of Horror, Doctor Wholidays, Madaraka Festival, Myth and Magic Faire, Campout Cinema Series and Sound Off!, a battle-of-the-bands competition for musicians 21 and younger.
It also will continue to focus on serving youth through education initiatives and partnerships that include creativity camps, teen artist workshops, performance coaching and mentorship, in-school artist residencies and curriculum support.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @sarabruestle.
If you go
The Museum of Pop Culture (formerly EMP Museum) is at 325 Fifth Ave. N at the Seattle Center.
Admission to all exhibits is $30 for adults, $27 for students and seniors, $24 for military and $21 for youth ages 5-17. Children under 5 get in free. Members pay $5 to see the featured exhibition. Group rates are available for parties of 15 or more.
Purchase tickets online at www.mopop.org, through the box office at 206-770-2702 or in person in the MoPOP lobby.
2017 MoPop exhibition schedule
Feb. 11: “The Art of Rube Goldberg.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning artist is best known for his invention drawings of complex chain-reaction machines designed to perform simple tasks.
March 4: “Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.” This Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame gallery will feature about 40 artifacts and look at the more than 150 Hall of Fame inductees.
May 20: “The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited.” Henson and his team of builders, performers, and writers brought to life the enduringly popular puppet characters of “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show,” as well as the fantastical worlds of “Fraggle Rock,” “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth.”
July 1: “Starman Remembered: David Bowie.” This exhibit features the work of the musician’s official photographer, Mick Rock, between 1972 and 1973, when David Bowie was redefining glam rock as the androgynous alien rock star Ziggy Stardust.
Sept. 30: A new horror film exhibit is in the works and has yet to be named.
Information provided by the Museum of Pop Culture.