People spoke in reverent, hushed tones inside Everett's Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum Tuesday.
A simple photograph of Paul Allen, the museum's creator, greeted people as they entered the hangar housing incomparable pieces of history.
"This museum could be anywhere in the world," said museum Executive Director Adrian Hunt. "Paul put it in Everett to give back to the people of the Northwest."
Hunt worked with Allen for 15 years, culminating in an installation of military hardware unlike any other on the planet.
The museum houses some 60 World War II era artifacts fully restored to their former glory -- right down to actual oil leaks and wire coatings.
"They are absolutely perfect," said Hunt. "We even have a machine in Arlington that coats the wires with a World War II-era lacquer."
Allen's WWII veteran father and intense fascination with technology inspired him to build the museum in 2004, moving it to a hangar at Paine Field in 2008 as the collection grew.
These were not simply the toys of some flamboyant billionaire. Allen displayed the collection for the world to see in an attempt to preserve the history and get people as close to it as possible.
"These aren't things you see in a movie. This is the real deal," said Hunt. "He wanted you to experience things and get inspired about history and technology."
Allen's museum took that to new heights with planes that actually fly and tanks that still rolled. Beyond the nuts and bolts, though, Allen also fine-tuned the heart. In 2017 he helped reunite a pair of World War II fighter pilots after 72 years.
"He sort of brought you with him," said Hunt. "You sort of lost fear."
That fearlessness inspired Hunt to push boundaries in his own life and expect the unexpected.
"Paul would always challenge us,” said Hunt. “So, now I turn on the poor people who work for me, and when they say they can't do it, I tell them maybe we can. Why don't we think about it? Maybe we could do that!"
The newest addition to the museum is an interactive display called, "Why War: The Causes of Conflict." Rare historical artifacts and large-scale touchscreens give visitors a new way to explore history and examine conflict through the lenses of key figures, technology, and pop culture.
The display is geared toward school children. One touchscreen exhibit allows students to make decisions about global scenarios and see whether their choices might lead to war.
"Paul always wanted us to be thinking, moving forward, whether it was through his brain institute or this museum," said Hunt.
The flag outside the museum flew at half-staff Tuesday, honoring a great American and proud son of the great Northwest.
"It's a sort of cultural philanthropy," said Hunt, wiping away a tear. "He gave back to everybody, especially to the Northwest, through his museums, sports teams, and donations. He was an amazing man."