The Man Himself

My friend Harvey was kind enough to lend me the front windows of his museum for my art project. Here’s an article that was published about five years ago at the former ThreeSheets NW website about the museum. Enjoy!

The Lincoln Street Canoe & Kayak Museum could just as well be called Harvey’s Museum, or even the Museum of Harvey. Located in a refurbished 1913 corner store in Portland, Oregon, the building is home to dozens of traditional boats, including an Irish Boyne Curragh, an Algonquin birch-bark canoe, and a Wu-Hu tub boat from Nanking, China – all acquired by owner and museum curator Harvey Golden.

The author of a 600-page study on the kayaks of Greenland, Golden, is an accomplished kayaker who has paddled traditional kayaks for hundreds of miles. But Golden is also a man with a mission: to share, preserve, and display the dozens of traditional skin on frame kayaks, scale models, and paddles that he has collected or constructed over the years.

For Golden, the world is an endlessly interesting place, especially when viewed from the past. And so the Lincoln Street storefront also serves as his research headquarters. Here, surrounded by antique display cases containing old postcards, books, and scale models, he writes about the traditional kayaks, his sleek Apple computer lending a modern touch to the traditional interior.

The museum’s third role is that of impromptu community center.  Every Wednesday evening, Golden opens the place to small craft enthusiasts, as well as passers by, who come to chat or to study details of the boats on display. An accomplished builder and deeply knowledgeable about kayaks, Golden tends to listen more than talk, downplaying his years of travel, during which he’s visited scores of museums to study and take lines from kayaks collected by early European explorers. As a result, his visitors often feel like the stars of the show.

But whether he admits it or not, Golden is the real star of the Lincoln Street Canoe and Kayak Museum. And now, more than ever, is a good time to go to the museum and chat with him about his latest publication: Kayaks of Alaska.

Weighing in at about 10 pounds, the book is both scholarly and fascinating. The text is rich in details, the contemporary and historic photos of kayaks in action are intriguing; but what really stands out are the intricate drawings of various knots, ribs, and paddles that transform these ordinary objects into items worthy of study.

Whether or not you buy the book, or even know how to paddle a kayak, stop by the museum if you’re in Portland. I suspect you’ll enjoy both the boats and the man himself.

The Lincoln Street Canoe and Kayak Museum is located at 5340 S.E. Lincoln St.

Portland, Oregon, 97215. They’re open by appointment these days.