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An early Boeing airplane hovers in the main atrium of MOHAI

Seattle’s history is very much tied to innovation, whether it’s Bill Boeing’s early aircraft or Bill Gates’ early software. And those breakthrough technologies — as well as dozens of others — are on full display at Seattle’s new Museum of History and Industry.

After years in development and more than $90 million in renovation costs, MOHAI officially opens to the public in the old Naval Reserve Armory on South Lake Union December 29th. We got a sneak  peek today as part of a press preview, and walked away wanting to spend more time exploring the nooks and crannies.

One of the cool things about the museum is that it’s not just about where Seattle has been, but where it is going. In the “digital tower,” highlighted by the blue dots in the photo above, visitors can get a tutorial from Seattle-based Big Fish Games on how to create a video game. Visitors also will be encouraged to offer creative ideas on their own video games.

In another area, visitors can test the premise of their business ideas in what amounts to a startup lab. You can play a game in which you try to uncover resources from area companies in order to build your startup, with a prediction on whether you will be successful or not to other historical businesses.

“It’s the evolution of ‘What’s a good idea? How do you write a business plan? How do you get to a business plan?” said MOHAI’s director of marketing Jackie Durbin. “All of the towers are going to be interactive, with some sort of engaging opportunity for visitors.”

The museum also will feature interactive exhibits tied to innovation, driven in part through a $10 million donation from founder Jeff Bezos. Durbin was a bit mum on the plans for the Bezos-backed “Center for Innovation,” which will open in the fall of 2013.

However, she said exhibits in that part of the museum will explore why Seattle has grown into an innovative city. Portions of the museum are still under construction, including the Microsoft exhibit. But I peeked in to see an old Altair computer, as well as “Bob” T-shirts and other memorabilia.

Ann Farrington, creative director, noted during our tour that technology is used throughout the museum in order to help tell the story of the city. But it’s not done just for the coolness factor.

As an old Seattle Post-Intelligencer scribe, I also had to ask about the neon P-I globe which the museum plans to take possession of in the coming years. Durbin said that they don’t yet have a plan for the massive globe, which is still anchored to the old P-I building on Elliott Avenue.  However, Durbin said it is too big to be displayed at the museum.

However, fans of Seattle will be glad to know that another sign will be making an appearance. Yes, the fabulously hilarious marquee of the now defunct Lusty Lady strip club is in the collection of MOHAI and will be displayed. Visitors should be able have some fun with that, coming up with their very own pithy double entendre slogans.

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