The Living Computers Museum + Labs (LCM+L) is shutting down

The Living Computers Museum + Lab in Seattle is shutting down due to the effects of the current COVID-19 situation. Here’s the public announcement:

Rich Alderson goes a bit more into detail in a message, I found on a mailing list:

As I’m sure all of you are aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a crisis
with devastating effects on many cultural organizations, and more especially
on those which rely on public gatherings and special events to achieve their
mission. Since before we opened to the public in 2012, our philosophy has
been a simple one: To understand computing technology of any period, you need
to experience that technology at first hand.

The current global situation has made it difficult for us to serve our
mission, and given so much uncertainty we have made the difficult decision to
suspend all operations of LCM+L for now. We will spend the months ahead
reassessing if, how, and when to reopen. Because that will not happen in any
short time frame, the staff, including me, have been laid off.

I hope, the museum + labs will manage to reopen anytime soon and we won’t have to move this to the “Histories” section.


There’s certainly a question mark there, and the possibility of closure. Not good at all - not only the loss of a facility and a venue for learning, but also the possible dissolution of a collection and the dispersing of a skilled team.

As noted elsewhere, the two major computing museums in the UK are seeking donations. In the case of the CCH in Cambridge, they presented at a virtual meetup of the Acorn and BBC User Group the other day, and collected some donations from attendees. Previously:
Computer museums appealing for support


Here’s the final shut down notice (July 1, 2020):

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Quite emotional…

I helped shut the big systems down on Monday with the rest of the engineering staff. I have never heard the computer room this quiet before. I’d be lying if I didn’t shed a tear when turning Rosencrantz (the VAX, running perpetually for a decade) off, wondering when it would run again.

I do remember that strange strong feeling when all the fans spin down - either a feeling of doom, if it’s unplanned, or a feeling of finality and peace, when it’s planned.

Edit: interesting note in the comments that CHM made some efforts to survive any individual - maybe LCM+L was always going to be somewhat vulnerable after the demise of the founder. It takes some special moves to make an institution, over and above making an organisation.

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It’s not really clear, but it looks like it’s closing for 12-18 months, but not out right dying. It’s not clear if they’re going to lose the space and break up the collection, or they’re simply looking at the winds of the current economic uncertainty and cocooning up with the hope of a new chrysalis later on.

Hopefully, it’s the latter.

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People have sometimes pressured me to donate my old computers to the local museum. The reason I don’t is that it is part of a local university and the directors change every two years. And most of the professors there think it is a huge waste since “computing is not about the past but about the future”. That means any donations I make might end up in a dumpster.

Private collections often have this fate when the collector dies and the rest of the family doesn’t care about it.

I think the CHM people are right: the only way to have a long term collection is with a top level organization dedicated to this. Being part of a larger organization doesn’t work and having individual ownership doesn’t work.

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This makes me very sad. :cry:

“Private collections often have this fate when the collector dies and the rest of the family doesn’t care about it.” I’m not sure this isn’t what’s happening here as well, the Covid 19 situation is a easy scapegoat.

I’ve been concerned about the LCM+L since 2018 when Paul Allen passed away.

I am glad I did not procrastinate and had visited the LCM+L several times.

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