More than a decade after the splashy Experience Music Project opened in the shadow of the Space Needle, the Seattle museum started by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is phasing out its formal name — and shedding the standalone identity for its companion Science Fiction Museum — in favor of a familiar yet new name that doesn’t pin the museum down into any one area.
Goodbye “Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum.” … Hello “EMP Museum.”
The change is meant to reflect how EMP has become a broader place for music, pop culture and science fiction. It also shows how the museum is still searching for its footing as a venue for locals and a destination for tourists.
And on an historical note, it’s notable as another step away from the original inspiration for the museum as a Jimi Hendrix tribute. The use of the word “Experience” was in part a hat tip by Allen to the late music legend, and his debut album, “Are You Experienced.” Hendrix ended up being featured in EMP but isn’t the singular focus.
EMP has been making the name change subtly in recent months, but it became more obvious just recently when the museum started redirecting online visitors from its previous website, empsfm.org, to the new empmuseum.org.
The museum’s Facebook page sports a revamped logo (at right) reflecting the new name and the broader strategy.
Most people know the museum as EMP already, and officials say none of the core EMP/SFM components are going away. EMP had previously combined the entry for the two museums under a single admission price. So while it’s symbolically notable, the name change isn’t dramatic in a practical sense.
“What we’re trying to do is more accurately reflect who we are as a museum and what we’re presenting as an organization,” explained Anita Woo, an EMP spokesperson, via phone this morning.
EMP will continue to house the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and stage sci-fi exhibits in various parts of the broader museum, such as the current Avatar display and the upcoming Can’t Look Away” horror movie exhibition. EMP will also be updating and bringing back its permanent collection of sci-fi artifacts next year.
The new name is the latest in a series of changes for the museum, including the opening of the Science Fiction Museum in 2004 in the former space of the motion-platform “Funk Blast” ride.
EMP was originally conceived by Allen as an homage to Jimi Hendrix, based on the Microsoft co-founder’s collection of Hendrix memorabilia. In his recent memoir, Idea Man, Allen explained that he and his sister, Jody, realized over time that the project needed to be larger — not only telling Hendrix’s story but also placing Hendrix in the context of music in the Pacific Northwest, while exploring the origins of creativity.
“This more ambitious institution deserved a new name,” Allen writes in the book. “I came up with Experience Music Project to imply a place that would always be dynamic, a work in progress.”
Turns out the name itself would be a work in progress, as well.