From my first glimpse of the museum, I loved it. Seattle has a monorail, and the monorail actually goes in between two parts of the museum:
|Photo by Reywas92 -- CC BY-SA 3.0|
Here's an aerial picture of the museum, so you can get a better idea of it as a whole:
|Photo from EMP|SFM Archive -- CC BY-SA 3.0|
What I was most interested in, of course, were the science fiction exhibits. The first, called Can't Look Away: The Lure of Horror Films, featured interviews with many famous directors of horror films and screened several classic horror films. I particularly enjoyed the collection of props from famous horror films and TV shows--I was very excited to see Mr. Pointy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
Having watched most of the first three seasons of the Battlestar Galactica reboot, I was even more excited by the collection of props in Battlestar Galactica: The Exhibition. Not only did I get to see Six's red dress, Baltar's coat, and some Cylon parts, but I also got to see one of the Cylon fighter ships and even Apollo's ship! Some of the props, like Laura Roslin's glasses, did make me wonder though (along lines inspired by Walter Benjamin)--At what point does this become too much? At what point are we saving non-distinctive junk just because it has touched fame?
Apart from the appearance of the building itself, my favorite part of the EMP Museum was the Avatar exhibition. In addition to some of the props used in the film, such as Grace's journal, a giant Na'vi arrow, and one of the mech warriors, there were quite a few displays that showed how the filmmakers went about creating the world of Pandora. I was really intrigued by the way that they deliberately drew on images that viewers would be familiar with, and then placed them in unfamiliar contexts to make them seem strange--taking the movement of underwater plants, for example, and using that in plants above ground. I had the chance to put these ideas into action in an exhibit that allowed me to design my own Pandoran plant. I got to pick a root system, stem, and flower, each of which resembled real plants on Earth, and then they were combined into a single, strange-looking creation. Hearing about this design principle--making the familiar strange--did a lot to explain the popularity and appeal of the world of Pandora.
There was also quite a bit in the exhibition about the motion-capture technology used to turn actors into the giant blue Na'vi, and one of the highlights for me was the chance to try this out for myself! I was told what to do by (a video of) James Cameron himself, and then my actions were captured and rendered in the form of Neyteri. Here I am, wandering through the forests of Pandora!
Finally, while I didn't have time to explore this area fully, there was a treasure trove of information in Sound and Vision: Artists Tell Their Stories, which contained videos of interviews with authors, directors, actors, and musicians, among others. I learned fascinating things about Octavia Butler, heard George Lucas and Steven Spielberg talk about what they think science fiction is, and watched a great interview with the prop guy from the Alien movie. He talked about how they got the alien to pop out of Kane's chest, and even more interestingly, how they tricked the rest of the cast into having genuinely horrified reactions. It was fascinating, and I wish I had had more time to watch these interviews.
While the $20 entry fee might seem a bit steep, the wealth of information, particularly in interview form, in the EMP Museum is worth the price of entry alone. Many of the exhibits are also interactive, which is expensive to run and maintain, and this interactivity is another of the major appeals of the museum (it also makes many of the exhibits kid-friendly, which is nice). I would highly recommend the EMP Museum to any pop culture/music/scifi fans who visit Seattle.