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Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in Seattle

Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) has become one of the premier attractions in Seattle. Perhaps the most expansive pop culture museum in the world, it is home to the largest known collections of memorabilia from iconic Seattle bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, countless beloved movies and video games; and, most recently, an exhibit highlighting works from the career of Academy-Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter. 

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Formerly known as the Experience Music Project (EMP), the nonprofit MoPOP is one of the most popular attractions in the Seattle Center, home to other renowned sites like the Space Needle and Pacific Science Center. The museum was designed by famous architect Frank Gehry, known for his bold designs and sheet metal work constructing iconic monuments like the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The exterior is a piece of art itself, an eccentric building made up of metal shapes that many, including Gehry himself, say resemble a smashed electric guitar, marking the perfect space for the MoPOP to reside. Inside is 140,000 square feet of space, including the museum’s centrally-located Sky Church, a venue paying homage to music legend Jimi Hendrix.

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With a focus on iconic Seattle natives, MoPOP houses the most extensive collection of Nirvana memorabilia in its exhibition Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, containing over 200 unique pieces and artifacts like many of Kurt Cobain’s (unsmashed) guitars, Dave Grohl’s drum kit, photographs, oral histories and more. Another musical icon from the Pacific Northwest, Jimi Hendrix, also has an exhibition, the Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad, which offers an in-depth look into Hendrix’s life on the road to fame. Items like Hendrix’s guitar from Woodstock can be found in this installment. Other artists’ expositions outside of Seattle can be found at MoPOP, too, including a new exhibition, Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, focusing on the history of hip-hop and its most influential artists like Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, Tupac and more.  

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Though the museum’s origins were slated to focus only on music, MoPOP also features a curated collection of devoted movie genre memorabilia that can be found downstairs, featuring exhibitions from your favorite fantasy, sci-fi and horror media. These installments showcase these collections by using interpretive films, interactive kiosks, photographs and artifacts, and treasures on display include Luke Skywalker’s severed hand from George Lucas’ “The Empire Strikes Back”; the first White Walker head from “Game of Thrones”; weaponry from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy; and so much more to see from indie games like “Little Nightmare” and beloved films likeBlade Runner,” “The Matrix,” “Harry Potter,” “The Nightmare on Elm Street” and more. 

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In addition to movie-focused installments, the museum recently launched its newest addition to MoPOP, Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design. This exhibition provides an up-close look into over 60 costumes designed by Carter, who has contributed iconic looks to dozens of films that have shaped the landscape of contemporary Black cinema including “Black Panther,” “Do the Right Thing,” “Selma,” “Malcolm X,” “Roots,” “Coming 2 America” and more. 

To learn more about MoPOP and purchase tickets, visit mopop.org

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