Steps away from the Space Needle and the Seattle Center, sits the Museum of Pop Culture. Formerly the EMP Museum, the Frank O. Gehry designed building is unique both inside and out. The MoPOP is constructed from over 21,000 aluminum and stainless steel shingles, the walls curving like waves. Inside, the museum houses exhibitions both permanent and rotating, which honor science fiction, fantasy, horror, gaming, music, and more.
It All Started with Star Trek
I attended the Science Fiction and Fantasy Celebration, which was also the unveiling of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Hall of Fame exhibition. Since all of the museum exhibits were open, I started downstairs in the horror exhibit. The horror exhibit explores why we like to be scared and features prop from films as well as words and videos from horror masters like Guillermo Del Toro and Roger Corman. I was delighted to see props like the Books of Ascension and Mr. Pointy from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer alongside pages from Bram Stoker’s original manuscript of Dracula.
Then I headed into the science fiction exhibit where the museum had gather everything from the hover boards used in Back to the Future to the gun Will Smith used in Men in Black. I was awed by a giant globe that at the touch of a button changed from Earth to imagined planets like Pandora. Naturally, the next stop was Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds. That’s where the tears started.
Star Trek was a groundbreaking show due to its allegorical nature and its ability to push the boundaries of what was allowed in the ’60s because of its genre. The show’s commitment to progress is highlighted in this exhibition. My eyes started to water when I saw a picture of Nichelle Nichols at the White House with President Obama. And it didn’t stop there. The entire exhibit is a tribute to how Star Trek pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable and opened up new worlds and the idea of new technology to people who went on to become social and technological innovators.
Validation and Honor
After leaving the exhibition, I walked into the main area where they were showing a video of the recent inductees into the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Hall of Fame. They’re chosen, nominated, and finally selected by a committee of industry experts. Inductees can either be creators (actors, writers, directors, musicians) or creative properties (games, films, books, characters). This year’s inductees ran the gamut from veteran actors like Keith David to authors like Madeline L’Engle or films like The Matrix.
What made me cry was watching these people who influenced me and so many people I know, be treated with such reverence. Science fiction and fantasy have always been a big part of my life and to see it honored and held in such esteem was more than refreshing; it was validating. What makes the MoPOP such an important place is the integrity with which it treats this genre. To see the work of George Lucas displayed with the same respect that someone would show to a Monet, validates what I’ve always felt about this work. This is art. It is legitimate and it has shaped this world.
For those of us who love these worlds; real, imagined or reinvented, the MoPOP is our place. It is where we can be seen and respected. That is the beauty of the Museum of Pop Culture.