Paul Allen’s Living Computers Museum And Labs To Be Auctioned

After the Living Computers museum in Seattle closed like so many museums and businesses in 2020 with the pandemic, there were many who feared that it might not open again. Four years later this fear has become reality, as the Living Computers: Museum + Labs (LCM+L, for short) entire inventory is being auctioned off. This occurs only 12 years after the museum and associated educational facilities were opened to the public. Along with Allen’s collection at the LCM+L, other items that he had been collecting until his death in 2018 will also be auctioned at Christie’s, for a grand total of 150 items in the Gen One: Innovations from the Paul G. Allen Collection.

In 2022 Allen’s art collection had seen the auction block, but this time it would seem that the hammer has come for this museum. Unique about LCM+L was that it featured vintage computing systems that visitors could interact with and use much like they would have been used back in the day, rather than being merely static display pieces, hence the ‘living computers’ part. Although other vintage computing museums in the US and elsewhere now also allow for such interactive displays, it’s sad to see the only major vintage computing museum in Washington State vanish.

Hopefully the items being auctioned will find loving homes, ideally at other museums and with collectors who aren’t afraid to keep the educational spirit of LCM+L alive.

Thanks to [adistuder] for the tip.

Top image: A roughly 180° panorama of the “conditioned” room of the Living Computer Museum, Seattle, Washington, USA. Taken in 2014. (Credit: Joe Mabel)

20 thoughts on “Paul Allen’s Living Computers Museum And Labs To Be Auctioned

  1. I’m disappointed that Cray-1 SN 13 that used to be in Cray’s St. Paul office has been collecting dust since LCM closed. Hopefully it ends up on public display again and not in someone’s private collection.

      1. Why not? He may as well be remembered for the bad as well as the good. He was rich not a deity to be worshipped.

        Interestingly you apparently didnt bother even looking since the link isn’t an ‘article’ its a search on tag dirrt for articles tagged with Paul Allen, some of the 1st discussing allen directly.

  2. This is very sad. I know (knew) several people who worked hard getting some of those computers able to go “live.” Off elsewhere, people have blamed Alan for poor planning WRT his legacy; in theory a fraction of his wealth should have been able to sustain the museum for a long time.

    1. I was wondering the same, surely anyone rich enough to set this sort of thing up has the wherewithal to make it able to self-sustain for a long if not indefinite time without breaking a sweat?

      1. Exact same issue with his aviation and combat armor museum. He had enough money that it could have been funded permanently after his death. And this isn’t just speculation – I have a friend who knew him well. Thankfully that collection, while it did take some hits, ultimately was purchased mostly intact and the museum reopened. But it was insane to me that he didn’t have plans in place for what was going to happen to all this stuff.

    2. I sort-of have a contact in the museum business. They say that it’s not so much “poor planning” as the fact that Allen’s SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS require the estate to auction off all his “collections” and send the money to the charitable funds. In other words: “these were MY hobbies, and I’m happy to have them die with me.” Sigh.

  3. I visited that place about 10 years ago and it was absolutely magic. Well curated, exhibits that were actually working and that you were allowed to touch. Personally it was like walking on memory lane as I had quite some personal experience with most of the exhibits starting with the Apple ][ and whatever followed after that.

    The IBM/360 was truly impressive (lots of blinking lights on the console) as were the PDP/11 and VAX. Such a wonderful and nostalgic place.

    As noted by another commenter: it’s really pitiful that Paul Allen did not plan ahead in order to keep such a place working after his passing. This should work as a reminder to everyone else in a similar position: plan for your legacy.

  4. Seems odd that all the museums are being auctioned off with the proceeds going to charity. Aren’t museums generally considered a ‘Charity’ ? Couldn’t it be
    transferred to another charitable organization to keep it running ?

    6 years of doing something, and being closed for 4 years. probably means a personal pissing match behind the scenes.


  5. While it’s always sad to see a museum go I hope someone buys the lot, adds a few items to it then proceeds to remove all traces of his name from it. There’s a delicious irony if this part of his legacy were to recieve the “embrace, extend, extinguish” treatment.

  6. I really hope that other museums jump on this and these systems don’t just end up in some rich guy’s private collection as an “investment”
    People need to be able to come and see just how much technology has developed. Really surprised Paul Allen didn’t plan better to keep this museum in business after he died. It’s not like he was short on cash at all….

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