Whether your taste runs to traditional art, industry or rock ‘n’ roll, the Seattle area offers a variety of museums to meet a wide range of cultural interests.
From the Experience Music Project Museum (EMP), to the Seattle Art Museum, to the Museum of History & Industry, along with a smorgasbord of smaller and definitely quirkier destinations, the Seattle area is a museum patron’s paradise.
Originally founded as a music museum by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the EMP Museum has been refocused on popular culture.
Among the exhibits that have been or are featured are “Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad, 1966-1970,” focused on the road life of seminal guitarist and Seattle native Jimi Hendrix; the “Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction,” with 150 artifacts from iconic films and television shows; “Indie Game Revolution;” “Can't Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film;” and "Guitar Gallery: The Quest for Volume," which presents 55 vintage, world-changing guitars from the 1770s to the present.
The futuristic EMP building and its 400 tons of structural steel was designed by Frank O. Gehry and is adjacent to the historic Space Needle. The Seattle Center Monorail, built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, runs through the EMP building.
Established in 1993, the SAM has three major components – the main museum in downtown; the Asian Art Museum located in the original Art Deco building in Volunteer Park; and the nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park along the waterfront. The museum's primary collection, which now numbers almost 25,000 items, moved into its current location on First Avenue in 1991. There is free admission on the first Thursday of each month for viewing the regular collections.
Housed in the restored Naval Reserve Armory on the south shore of Lake Union, the MOHAI now is the state's largest private heritage organization with a collection of more than four million objects, documents, and photographs encompassing the history of the Puget Sound region. More than 100,000 items are on display in the permanent collection, including scores of locally designed and invented products.
The Museum of Flight, located just south of Seattle, lists its vision statement as, "To be the foremost educational air and space museum in the world." The museum's collection includes millions of rare photographs and negatives, scores of unique artifacts, and more than 150 rare aircraft and space vehicles. Among the aircraft on display are the first Boeing 747 ever built; Boeing VC-137B "Air Force One," the first presidential jet plane delivered in 1959 for President Eisenhower; and a British Airways supersonic Concorde.
Although not exactly on par with other museums in terms of scope, size or cultural significance, pinball wizards will enjoy the challenge of resurrecting their arcade skills on more than 50 vintage and classic machines, primarily from the early '60s and on. As for cool on top of cool, the cost of admission includes unlimited play on all machines. The Seattle Pinball Museum originally opened in 2010 in the Chinatown/International District as part of the Storefronts Seattle program that paired empty storefronts and juried artists to revitalize a neighborhood and now is a stand-alone, independent business.