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A Cleveland original opens N.Y. branch

Exhibits at the Rock Hall of Fame's ANNEX NYC include a Mosrite Ventures II, the favored guitar of punk legend Johnny Ramone, and a bustier designed by Jean Paul Gaultier for Madonna.
Exhibits at the Rock Hall of Fame's ANNEX NYC include a Mosrite Ventures II, the favored guitar of punk legend Johnny Ramone, and a bustier designed by Jean Paul Gaultier for Madonna.
December 21, 2008
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NEW YORK - If you love music history, you've probably been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Now comes a smartly designed outpost, newly opened amid the cutting-edge stores and studios of SoHo. Called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ANNEX NYC, it has some high-tech installations that make it unique.

The two museums couldn't be more different. The Cleveland site is a towering glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei with views of Lake Erie. The New York addition is on a narrow, cobblestoned street in a basement maze of rooms. ANNEX NYC has 25,000 square feet of space - Cleveland has 125,000 - but the vibe works so well that you won't feel cramped.

"It made sense for us to be in New York. A lot of great rock 'n' roll happened here," says Jim Henke, head curator of both museums. "We hope that people who come here will then go to Cleveland and vice versa."

About half of the artifacts in ANNEX NYC have been shown in Cleveland, including an exhibit on Brit punk pioneers The Clash. But a lot is newly displayed, including an Elvis Presley jumpsuit and a Buddy Holly guitar.

Visitors are handed a digital music device with earphones that changes the music automatically when you walk around the exhibits. You'll hear Bruce Springsteen if you check out his 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible (he drove it when making his "Born to Run" album). The Clash plays when you amble by Joe Strummer's Telecaster guitar. James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Parliament-Funkadelic play when you're in the "Roots and Influences" room.

Another highlight is the special glass encasing exhibits on Jimi Hendrix and the Talking Heads. The opaque glass serves as a video screen, then becomes transparent, allowing you to see the artifacts inside the case.

"This is New York and we want to entertain as well as educate," says producer Stacey Lender of Running Subway, an exhibit production company.

More high-tech tricks are found in a 10-minute movie featuring performances from artists such as Muddy Waters, the Beatles, and Led Zeppelin. A clip of that day's visitors is edited into the background, so it looks like you're in the club audience of that show.

Other exhibits center around New York legends such as Blondie, the Ramones, Velvet Underground, and more, along with a great display on the now-defunct punk club CBGB. It includes the urban club's cash register, amps, tables, chairs, graffiti, and empty beer bottles.

STEVE MORSE

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