Experience Music Project embraces iPods

The Experience Music Project museum in Seattle, founded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, has replaced its cumbersome portable guides with iPods.

I had a charter family membership Seattle's Experience Music Project or EMP, which opened in 2000. But after a couple years, I gave it up. The exhibits didn't change enough to warrant a lot of repeat visits, our periodic out-of-town guests had all been at least once, and the promise of early alerts about live shows at the museum never seemed to come through. (The one show I really wanted to see, the Television reunion in 2001, was sold out before I was ever informed about it.)

Seattle's Experience Music Project Cacophony, Wikimedia Commons

With a teenaged niece in town and my daughter just getting old enough to enjoy the museum experience, we decided to rejoin yesterday. After facing a few years of low attendance, the museum has made a lot of positive changes, like lowering prices for memberships and daily passes and offering free admission on one evening per month.

As part of this revamp, they killed MEG. Also known as the Museum Experience Guide, MEG was a portable device about the size of a portable CD player with a laser scanner, headphones, and an LCD screen. Visitors would point the scanner at a point on the wall and hear information about the exhibit and maybe some relevant music--for example, famous guitarists like Vernon Reid shredding one of the museum's rare guitars. Nobody loved MEG: they were awkward to carry and hard to figure out, and I always ended up putting mine down somewhere halfway through my visit.

Their replacement? iPods with jukeboxes of music from featured artists like Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. Given that Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen established the EMP, you might have expected them to replace the MEG (which was built on Windows CE) with a Zune. But no--even though the EMP has held Zune-sponsored events and even had a few Zunes on display for a while, they've apparently decided to go with the industry standard MP3 player instead.