Techno gets its due at museum in Motown

Associated Press

Record cases, turntables, headphones and vinyl.

The stuff of a DJ’s trade is on display at the Detroit Historical Museum, in the city where techno music got its start.

The exhibition, “Techno: Detroit’s Gift to the World,” details how the dance music grew over the last two decades from sounds heard at local clubs and parties to a global sensation. And it gives recognition to local artists who played key roles in helping to make it happen.

“We really asked them what we should do,” said Catherine Klingman, the curator who helped plan the exhibition. “They helped us a great deal. We’ve had people donating records and fliers and articles. They keep coming back.”


The museum has filled more than 1,900 square feet of gallery space with artifacts from the genesis of techno music, including keyboards and drum machines used to make it as well as the turntables and records used to play it.

Photos, audio interviews and music offer a primer about the songs heard today in video games, on movie soundtracks and in TV commercials -- as well as in dance clubs. Computer kiosks will allow visitors to manipulate sounds and explore electronic music.

The exhibition tells the story of Juan Atkins, Eddie Fowlkes, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, known for their roles as techno’s pioneers, as well as those who came later. It follows techno’s rise in the European club scene and its increasing prominence in the United States in recent years.

“We’re not just focusing on the four,” said Sulaiman Mausi, marketing manager for the museum, who came up with the idea for the show. “It’s a community, so we want to be as inclusive as possible.”


Atkins, May and Saunderson are generally credited with inventing the sound while spinning records in Detroit in the early 1980s. The trio is nicknamed the Belleville Three, for the city southwest of Detroit where they met in junior high school.

Atkins is revered as the “godfather of techno” for being the sound’s originator, while May is credited with taking the Detroit sound to sophisticated levels and Saunderson for bringing techno to the masses with Billboard dance hits. Fowlkes also influenced the genre with his DJ skills.

After the exhibition ends in June 2004, it will tour worldwide.