EMP Museum changes name to Museum of Pop Culture

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

The EMP Museum, at Seattle Center, is changing its name to the Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP.

The museum, initially named “Experience Music Project,” opened in June, 2000. The title included the word “experience” as a nod to the legacy of Jimi Hendrix, whose exhibit remains a cornerstone of the museum.

Janie Hendrix shared with KIRO 7 the following statement on the museum's name change: "As the family of Jimi Hendrix, we have always taken pride in each tribute paid to him and his musical legacy. EMP has honored Jimi from its inception and will continue to do so as The Museum of Pop Culture. We celebrate the fact that EMP has expanded beyond music, and we view the change as the reflection of that growth. And with its evolution, the Museum will still be the home of the Hendrix Gallery. The change is exciting...the artistic relationship remains the same. Congratulations to our friends at the Museum of Pop Culture!"

Museum officials told KIRO 7 that while the Northwest music scene is still central to the museum’s purpose, they have also expanded their focus to bring in exhibits featuring science fiction, video games, and fashion.

>> Related: EMP Museum prepares a 50th anniversary Star Trek tribute

The Seattle Times reported that the 2017-18 lineup includes artifacts and photographs associated with Jim Henson, David Bowie and cartoonist Rube Goldberg.

Of the 130,000 objects in the museum, about half are still focused on the Northwest, according to Jasen Emmons, director of curatorial affairs.

“Jimi Hendrix was the genesis of the museum. Growing up as a teenager, Paul Allen was struggling to learn how to play guitar. A friend of his turned him to the music of Jimi Hendrix,” Emmons said.

He said Allen was interested in inspiring visitors through the power of creativity.

Now the idea of creativity has led the museum to bring in exhibits featuring Star Trek, Star Wars, Hello Kitty, and Game of Thrones, for example.

“It’s a museum that’s exploring an art form whose time has come. So there will be museums of art, and there will be museums of history, and we’re the first museum of popular culture,” said Patty Isacson Sabee, the CEO of the museum.

Those studying museums would agree that this space presents material in a way that’s different from any other museum in the world.

Ilene Conde, who is getting her master’s degree in Museum Studies in Berkeley, Calif., said, “This is probably one of the coolest museums I’ve ever heard of…It has everything to do with pop culture, everything to do with what’s going on around us, and enjoying the art that’s new and old, and a culmination of the two worlds.”

Still, Conde did not know what “EMP” stood for, since “Experience Music Project” was shortened to just “EMP” after its opening.

Nearly 750,000 people visited in 2015, which is a 26 percent increase from 2014.

But with many visitors wondering about those three letters, the name change is meant to match the museum’s expanded mission and encourage more attendance by having a clear message.