Steve Stephens More Content Now
SEATTLE — Time does not actually warp at the point where the Seattle Monorail passes through the Museum of Pop Culture, but it does seem to scintillate a bit, just like the museum designed by Frank Gehry.
Gehry, the architect of several famous modernistic buildings, including the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, really let his freak flag fly when designing what is now known as MoPOP.
The squashy mass of reflective metal, built in 2000, seems an appropriate venue for the museum, which is sure to tap into any visitor’s inner geek. (One wing seems to have anticipated the look of Darth Vader’s melted helmet from the latest Star Wars movies.)
Whatever one might think of MoPOP’s in-your-face futuristic (as of the turn of the 21st century) design, it certainly fits the spirit of its surroundings.
The museum is located in Seattle Center, a park that was the site of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Seattle Center is also the terminus of the city’s historic monorail, a description that might seem to be an oxymoron. But the streamlined people-mover and the iconic, saucer-shaped Space Needle next door, both built for the 1962 fair, represent a Space Age vision of a future that never quite materialized, now more historic than visionary.
Inside MoPOP, which is also home to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, visitors will encounter many other different, and some quite famous, dreams of tomorrow.
The museum was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen as the Experience Music Project. The institution’s mission widened to include all aspects of pop culture and became MoPOP in 2016.
The museum’s pop-culture focus includes popular music, video games and fantasy, science fiction and horror film and literature, with galleries dedicated to each.
Visitors will find massive, distinctive set pieces. Sky Church is a huge reception, concert and theater space with a 60-foot LED screen, one of the largest in the world. “If VI was IX” is a nearly three-story-tall musical sculpture composed of 700 musical instruments, including 40 custom-made computerized self-playing guitars.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame honors authors, directors and other creators of classic books, movies and TV series. The hall is dotted with memorabilia sure to cause any sci-fi fan to geek out, including the original script for the movie “Alien,” the typewriter used by Isaac Asimov to write the science-fiction classic “I Robot,” the fedora and leather jacket worn by Indiana Jones in the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber (wait — I thought Rey had that!) among many others.
The museum also offers up several in-depth temporary or traveling exhibits.
“Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds,” which runs through May 28, offers what seems to be several universes full of original props and artifacts from all of the Star Trek television series and films.
Fans can boldly see what millions of others have seen, but up close. Displayed set pieces include Captain Kirk’s bridge chair and the USS Enterprise’s navigation console from the original series as well as costumes worn by Kirk, Spock, Uhura and other characters.
Other items include the model of the USS Enterprise-D used to film special effects in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” (Set phasers to “goose bumps.”)
Like most of the exhibits at MoPOP, the Star Trek installation includes plenty of interactive and immersive elements, including a chance to “act” in a classic scene from Star Trek and then view the resulting video. It was as much fun to watch other visitors/actors roll around on the floor of the “Transporter Room” as it was to do it myself.
“Bowie by Mick Rock,” another temporary exhibit, is built around dozens of Rock’s iconic, sometimes haunting, photographs of musician David Bowie. The exhibit includes videos of performances and interviews, a narrated audio tour, Bowie memorabilia and photos of other music icons. It runs through mid-March.
Other current exhibits includes the “Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited,” which runs through February and focuses on Henson’s beloved “Muppet Show” and “Sesame Street” puppets and performances.
Upcoming 2018 exhibits include “Marvel Universe of Super Heroes,” which is billed as the largest exhibition ever staged at the museum.
See it, and your friends are sure to turn Hulk-green with envy.
— Steve Stephens can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SteveStephens.