Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) receives thousands of unique artifacts from estate of Paul G. Allen

Friday, August 11, 2023

SEATTLE – MoPOP, the acclaimed nonprofit Museum of Pop Culture, announced it has received thousands of one-of-a-kind artifacts, props, posters, handbills, illustrations and other objects from the estate of Paul G. Allen. 

The items span decades of cultural moments across science fiction, fantasy, horror, and rock ‘n’ roll music among other genres and include rare artifacts previously loaned to the museum as well as items never before exhibited in public. 

Allen, philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder, was an avid collector and co-founder of MoPOP.

Michele Y. Smith CEO of MoPOP said. 

“These artifacts and their stories wonderfully support our continued mission to use the power of pop culture to spark joy, elevate diverse voices, and to use that power to bring audiences, stories, and histories from pop culture that are not always seen on museum walls. It’s an opportunity to not only celebrate icons of the past, but current and future creators as well to spark joy, reflection, and creativity for our visitors from around the world.”

The breadth and depth of Allen’s movie and music-related collection was appreciated worldwide. 

Highlights of his gift to MoPOP include:
  • a 1951 Epiphone FT 79 acoustic guitar owned by Jimi Hendrix; 
  • a hand-painted and smashed Univox electric guitar owned by Kurt Cobain; 
  • a complete alien creature suit from the 1979 film Alien; 
  • Darth Vader’s helmet from the 1980 blockbuster film Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back; 
  • handwritten lyrics by David Bowie for “Starman” from the early 1970s; 
  • the motorcycle jacket worn by Prince in his 1984 film Purple Rain; 
  • a collection of Nichelle Nichols’ (Lt. Nyota Uhura) hand-annotated scripts from the Star Trek television and film series (1965-1998); 
  • the iconic hat worn by Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz;
  • a full-size flying “Spinner” vehicle from the 1982 film Blade Runner, among many other items.

Jacob McMurray, Director of Curatorial, Collections, and Exhibits said, 

“MoPOP’s permanent collection and exhibitions showcase the unique role that popular culture plays in our lives - whether we realize it’s there or not. The artifacts in this bequest offer an extraordinary enhancement to our current and upcoming exhibitions, where they will surprise and delight visitors from around the world. 
"Having had the pleasure to work with some of these objects in the past, and now the opportunity to integrate many others into MoPOP’s collection, we are thrilled to be able to highlight the impact and resonance of these artifacts and how they have helped shaped our popular culture.”

Several dozen artifacts from the bequest are currently on display in Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic, Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film, Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, and other exhibitions. 

In addition, these artifacts will be incorporated into many future exhibitions, the online collections vault, and loans to other museums and institutions worldwide. 

This bequest expands the scope of MoPOP’s 80,000+ object permanent collection to be more reflective of the breadth of content that we explore as a Museum of Pop Culture, and further highlights the Museum’s mission to make creative expression a life-changing force as a global leader in the preservation, display, and interpretation of popular culture. 

MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture) is a leading-edge nonprofit museum in Seattle, dedicated to the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary pop culture. It is located at 325 5th Avenue N at Seattle Center.


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