After putting on an all-puppet production of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale to the disdain of their business-minded fathers, the members of the Young Naturalists Society decided to start their own museum of artifacts and nifty facts. The resulting Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is a nesting ground for Northwest natural history. A blend of permanent and rotating exhibits bejewels the senses through The Life and Times of Washington State exhibit, which guides the viewer past the state's oldest tusk-wielding citizens and shows how tuskless we've become in 545 million years. Through May 31, the museum proudly displays the Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway exhibit, where you can see how professionally excavated fossils stack up against the dino-bones you uncovered in the basement crawlspace.
Tucked inside an art deco building within Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park, the economically-sized Seattle Asian Art Museum showcases cultural artifacts from China, Japan, Korea and India. From silk screens to sculpture, scrolls to woodwork, the museum nods at history at every turn. It also includes a children’s room that lets little ones learn by doing and creating. Outside, Noguchi’s “Black Sun” sculpture lines a decorative pool within Volunteer Park, making for a wonderful photo vantage point that includes Seattle’s Space Needle in the background. Through the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas, the museum even offers a Saturday lecture series on visual and literary arts topics. Bargain-hunters take note: The museum is free to all visitors the first Thursday of each month.
Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry, known around town by its MOHAI acronym, recently relocated to a waterfront location in South Lake Union, and is now housed in the former Naval Reserve Armory building. It’s a smart change for the popular historical and educational spot, considering its new proximity to some of Seattle’s biggest businesses: outdoor retailer REI and Amazon.com. The museum’s permanent collection traces the city’s history, with nods to the city’s 1962 World’s Fair, the surprising 1999 WTO riots, and the birth and growth of aerospace giant Boeing. Temporary exhibits address topics as diverse as Seattle-specific artists, the history of gay culture citywide or the many engineering feats that have helped a region filled with bodies of water and steep slopes stay connected. The newly-opened Bezos Center for Innovation explores Seattle’s history of entrepreneurship and engages guests in interactive activities to elicit their inner CEO.
Founded in the 1970s as a grass-roots service group with the belief that art establishes connections between people and their neighborhood, the Fremont Arts Council is both instigator and mastermind behind many of the neighborhood’s annual events. These include the homegrown, spectacular summer Solstice Parade and Festival, May Day, Trolloween, the autumn equinox Luminata around Green Lake Park and the Feast of the Winter Solstice. The nonprofit organization also commissioned and maintains the famous Fremont Troll statue under the Aurora Bridge, along with the whimsical six figures that make up the Waiting for the Interurban sculpture. Headquartered in a vintage brick warehouse marked by a former smokestack emblazoned with the word “Solstice” in gold letters, the group also regularly hosts meetings and workshops with local and international artists.
EMP Museum is a tribute to cultural icons as well as a breeding ground for the next generation of musicians and societal shapers. Here, attendees don’t just stand before exhibits that explore Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones, but throw down their own musical chops in interactive exhibits such as Sound Lab, where they riff on an electric guitar, bang on drums, and tweak acoustics behind a mixing console. On Stage also gets guests to grip instruments, but under the hot lights of the stage, where they can pretend to entertain legions of fans or accompany their nephew’s birthday party.
The museum also curates rotating exhibits that celebrate modern cultural achievements. These have showcased the impact of Nirvana’s career alongside historic artifacts as diverse as Hendrix’s Stratocaster from Woodstock and Neo’s black futuristic coat from Matrix Reloaded. As home to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, the museum also spotlights luminaries such as Ray Bradbury and Steven Spielberg, who have shaped a generation’s imagination while warning people about the perils of suppressing ingenuity, ideas, and viewpoints.
All of the educational programming and special events unfold inside the architectural jewel that is the EMP Museum. Designed by Frank O. Gehry, the building’s 3,000 stainless-steel panels shimmer and seemingly swing through the air. This fluidity, which can alter its appearance depending on the time of day and light conditions, is about “reminding audiences that music and culture is constantly evolving,” as the museum’s website states.