Museum of American popular music opens in Seattle


SEATTLE -- The Experience Museum Project (EMP), an interactive museum devoted to creativity and innovation in American music, will open here on June 23.

A multiday celebration will be held in conjunction with the opening, featuring special events such as live performances from artists of different genres.

Paige Prill, communications manager for EMP, said that the museum was founded to give people the opportunity to be stimulated and creative.

Co-founded by Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen and Jody Allen Patton, the museum combines traditional exhibits, interactive multimedia presentations and hands-on technology in showcasing the evolution of various musical genres.

EMP will feature a selection of more than 80,000 artifacts, including Allen's collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia.

Prill noted that originally Allen wanted to exhibit only his Hendrix collection, but early planning soon evolved into the EMP concept.

Other artifacts on display include Eric Clapton's "Brownie" guitar, Grandmaster Flash's turntables and the handwritten lyrics of the late Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain.

EMP is located in the city's cultural hub, the 74-acre Seattle Center, which is home to the Space Needle, the Key Arena, the Pacific Science Center and other attractions. "We're just joining the neighborhood," Prill said.

EMP has nine key program components:

  • Sky Church -- A gathering and performance venue featuring a massive video frieze enhanced by state-of-the-art acoustics.
  • Crossroads -- The main exhibit area combining artifacts with multimedia spanning a century of popular music.
  • Sound Lab -- A futuristic studio where participants interact with music by learning basic skills or enhancing current skills.
  • Artist's Journey -- A multimedia experience combining special effects, film, audio, computer graphics and motion platform technology.
  • Virtual Library -- A repository of information available on workstations in EMP and on the museum's Web site.
  • Performance Stage -- Areas include the JBL Theater, a 200-seat venue for intimate performances.
  • Electric Bus -- The museum's educational outreach vehicle, the bus will tour the country with a sample of exhibits and other features indicative of the museum.
  • Experience Arts Camp -- A day camp offering kids ages 7 to 15 a two-week opportunity to learn from contemporary musicians, artists and actors.
  • Studio -- Educational programs that will include seminars, classes, lectures and workshops.
  • Prill said the museum "appeals to a lot of different people," citing not only the musical exhibits, but the building's unusual architecture, designed by Frank O. Gehry.

    In order to get more out of the exhibits through interaction, visitors to the EMP will be able to carry their own hand-held PC, which will work in conjunction with each exhibit.

    According to Prill, the PC will also hold several hours of information that can later be saved and e-mailed to the visitor's personal e-mail address or printed out in the museum itself.

    Guests could then use the information to go into the Sound Lab section and learn to play a specific instrument.

    EMP expects more than 1 million visitors during the museum's first year.

    The museum's Web site will contain elements of the EMP, but also will include an extensive database of artifacts that are not currently appearing in one of the museum's exhibits.

    According to Prill, the site will be the best place to get additional information on the museum.

    It also will offer such features as guitar lessons on line.

    Experience Music Project
    Phone: (206) EMP-LIVE

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