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Why war? Exhibit takes on a burning question

Atom bomb replicas
Replicas of the first atomic bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man, are on display in the “Why War” exhibit at the Flying Heritage Collection in Everett, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

EVERETT, Wash. – The idea behind the Flying Heritage Collection’s groundbreaking new exhibit about the causes and effects of conflict, “Why War,” was born five years ago – and the man behind the idea is none other than Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who owns the collection.

“He’s the ‘Idea Man,’ as you know,” said Adrian Hunt, the collection’s executive director, referring to Allen’s memoir.

The Flying Heritage Collection shows off scores of historic aircraft and other military artifacts in a 57,000-square-foot hangar complex next to Everett’s Paine Field, including a German V-2 rocket, a Soviet Scud missile system and a couple of tanks.

Hunt recalled that Allen raised a big-picture question during a conversation about the collection and its future: “At some level, don’t we just have a lot of weapons on display? … We should do something to provide some context.”

That set off years of thinking and designing, aimed at putting together an interactive exhibit to explain why conflicts arise, how warfare has changed, and how war affects societies. Hunt says the resulting 2,500-square-foot exhibit, which opens to the public on March 4, is the only one of its kind in the U.S.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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