These were the two that I had an imagined grudge against. I started working around Seattle before these two entities came into existence. And when it was being discussed, I was rather vehemently against Chihuly. So for me to have a fine time at either of these establishments was going to be quite the feat.
Week Thirteen- MoPOP
Grudge number one: From the outside, it appears that this building cannot decide who it wants to be. They started off as the Experience Music Project. But no matter how famous your musical instrument structure is, or who hideous that roof looked during construction, they still wanted to draw a bigger crowd.
A few years down the road, they more or less split the museum in half. EMP became EMP/Sci-Fi; or the Experience Music Project and Sci-Fiction Museum. I know. Words much? And the café has gone through more management and name changes that I can keep track of. So it was not terribly surprising when they rebranded themselves again this year, calling themselves the Museum of Pop Culture.
What I did not realize before going in, that this is a rather adult museum. Right next door, Pacific Science Center focuses their exhibits on the age range of three to thirteen. (They have adult exhibitions here or there, and their movies are blockbusters or documentaries, but the core exhibits? Those are school-focused.) MoPOP picks up at age thirteen. (Conveniently, the Children’s Museum probably aims for newborns to toddlers, so families have all their kids set within a one block radius.)
I took my tour at the same time that a high school group was booking through the exhibits. They were having a grand time. “Man, this is the greatest place ever!” Direct quote. Not too shabby a comment for what is technically a museum.
I say, “technically”, because the ambience was not one of quiet contemplation. Go to the Seattle Art Museum. Then come to MoPOP. Your head will explode. There are music concerts being held at their performance stage. An exhibit on video games has noises and effects playing. Even the historic exhibit has old-timey music and broadcasts playing in the background. Appropriate enough for a music-focused setting, but quite disorienting when you are trying to read all the displays and navigate around the crowds.
The reason I chose this time to come is that MoPOP had an exhibit on Rube Goldberg. An amateur physics nut, I could not turn that down. I was hoping for more physical displays (I believe they built two of Goldberg’s creations), but instead was treated to dozens of his cartoon sketches. I had not known that he was also a Pulitzer-winner and editorial cartoonist. Turns out I learned quite a bit. Surprise.
However the first exhibit I went to was the “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film”. Okay, technically I tried to go to Star Trek first. But it was a featured/touring exhibit and it cost extra. I am not a Trekkie. So I made my way to the free exhibits.
I do not like horror movies. I think there are plenty of bloody murders in real life without seeking out more. However, they did their best to make it entertaining and informative. (They also labeled it several times as PG-13. Keep out the wimps like me.) There were plenty of monitors showing clips from classic horror scenes. I avoided those. I had no desire to see The Exorcist or any gore-filled moments from the Saw franchise. But the high school kids sure liked it.
They also loved the Sound Lab. Go through a room filled with instruments. Go into a booth and rock out. Basically, go nuts. My nine months of piano had me at a disadvantage. I peeked around a bit, but again, too loud for me.
Jimi Hendrix has his own room. Kurt Cobain has his own display. Neither of which were quite my style, but I have their displays the courtesy look. (I did not sit through the television interviews.) A story was told, their legacy was celebrated, but I still could not name more than two of their songs if pressed.
Guitar Gallery was more interesting than I would have thought. They had guitars from throughout the ages, some of them previously owned or used by famous musicians. The technology part won me over. I was intrigued to see how they guitar had changed over the years, what innovations had come about as supplies were short, and how electricity was used over the decades. It was rather interesting. Surprise.
We Are Number Twelve. No, we are not. At least, I am not. I do not like sports. I do not want to spend my off-time watching tribute to a football game that happened years ago. And I do not think an entire room should be dedicated to it. For all those reasons, I refused to go into that exhibit. That bias I will not get over. Me and sports are not soulmates.
Plus, and this is perhaps my biggest bias against MoPOP, the owner’s name is everywhere. All of Seattle knows how owns the building. We know he also owns the Seahawks. We know that he owns most of the movie and music trinkets strewn around the building and much, much more in warehouses. How do we know this? Because there are signs everywhere stating as much. Every display case has a little sign acknowledging the loan. And the three paragraph sign welcoming visitors to the Number Twelve exhibit had to mention his name twice. It suggests he was the one responsible for the Super Bowl win. And I still have not gotten over my bias that the guy likes putting his name out there too much. End rant.
Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction is a bit of a must-see for hardcore nerds. Their range on the topic was pretty comprehensive. From comics to Stargate to Battlestar Galactica, they had their bases pretty well-covered. The weapons case forced me to pause. It was an entire wall dedicated to replicas of guns from the ages. Everything from GalaxyQuest to Men in Black. It was a lot of guns. To be fair, the museum folks were not the ones that came up with these guns, they simply put them all in one place. But man, there is a lot of time dedicated to impressive and creative ways to blow creatures to juicy bits.
You get the idea. I thought it would be a series of rooms, but it was three stories of well-thought out displays and information. Surprise. The group that normally shirks formal education and museums? The teenagers? They thought this place was amazing. And darned if I did not learn a thing or two. Surprise.
All those surprises add up. There is an obvious effort put into the museum. Despite my biases against it, I have to admit that I spent two and a half hours in there, and much of it was spent being impressed. If you have a family of teenagers, I would have to recommend it.
Week Fourteen- Chihuly Glass Museum
There is already a Chihuly place in Tacoma. Only once in my decade or so of working nearby had a question from a tourist about Dale Chihuly. (And people ask all kinds of questions.) It is my understanding that Chihuly does not even create pieces anymore. So why name the place after him? And honestly, I am not blown away by glass art.
Get it? Glass art? Blown? …’cause you have to blow the glass to form… Ahem. Moving on.
You can scroll through the pictures for yourself. Sorry for the image quality. Regardless of focus, you can still see why some people really like the place. The colors are lovely. The craftsmanship is evident. But to me? It is a room full of glass. Glass in different shades and shapes, sure. At the end of the day though, it is simply glass.
(Hence the pictures and very little paragraphs. If you enjoy this, do not let me ruin it for you. Simply bask in the hues and forms.)
However, and I almost missed this part, it was the demonstration that won me over. Every hour, they host glass-blowing. Two folks, who have worked in the glass-blowing field for years, usually in a factory, work by their airstream trailer and show what they do. It is rather captivating. You can see the glass change color as each layer is added. You learn how hot the glass and the rods have to be kept. Even the mitts the man used at the end had to be warmed up in the furnace a little to maintain a workable temperature.
The audience sat there and witnessed the glass being stretched and bended. We observed their skill and patience, knowing that these two had probably shattered hundreds of pieces before they got to this level. The thousands of man hours came across. Again, the science fan in me had to marvel at the way in which they tweaked and manipulated the glass across all stages. The impressive part was in the doing, not the end product.
The glass displays took less than half an hour to navigate. The demonstration at the end was well worth the wait and kept in interested. Forty-five minutes well spent.
I just hope the MoPOPs guitars and their many speakers never break free from next door. One can only imagine the carnage…