Museum of Whimsy

Astoria, Portland, USA

Building a narrowboat replica and shipping traditional decorated items 5000 miles to feature in a new museum on the west coast of America. Months of phone calls, exchanging of plans, shipping, emails,... and now it's time for the grand opening!

The ‘Museum of Whimsy’ in Astoria, Portland in America is the rather wonderful creation of Trish Bright – an infectiously enthusiastic woman devoted to creating a spectacular attraction in this beautiful riverside town on the west cost of the USA.

The story started many months ago when I received an email enquiring about commissioning a long list of traditionally decorated items. Trish and I began exchanging a series of emails and I explained about life on the Great British waterways, and the significance of the items. Trish’s initial idea, of commissioning a few items painted in ‘roses and castles’ style to include in her new Museum, grew and grew… into the final plan: devoting a whole section of her exciting venture to a full scale replica of a boatman’s cabin to display a selection of my work! I was pleased to also donate a couple of original items for the display, including a tray painted by Reg Barnett.

The intimidating task of building the narrowboat replica was taken on by a family of local boatbuilders in Astoria (Rickenbach Construction Inc.). They had never seen a narrowboat in the flesh, and so I thoroughly enjoyed working with them over email to share plans, advice and comments to help them along the way. The first time I saw the boat was when it was being wheeled into place in two huge separate pieces as I arrived in Astoria for the opening of the Museum. What a fantastic job Michelle, Jared and the rest of the guys in the team had done!! I was quite blown away by the detail they had been able to include – even a ticket drawer, soap holes and the correct opening to incorporate my painted table flap.

My wife, Chrissie, and I were absolutely delighted to be invited by Trish to fly over to America for the opening of the Museum last June. The photos in this album were all taken by Chrissie over the weekend of the Museum’s Grand Opening. We met with so many visitors eager to enjoy the delights of the Museum and intrigued by the narrowboat and its colourful artwork. It was fantastic that Trish was happy for visitors to climb in and out of the boat to get a real feel for what the living quarters would be like. We loved talking with each visitor about the canals, many never having seen or heard of ‘roses and castles’ before they visited the Museum that weekend. For the Grand Opening, everybody who is anybody in the local area came along for the ribbon-cutting and to join in the celebration – from senior members of the Chamber of Commerce to drivers of the local trams.

A huge congratulations to Trish for everything she has accomplished. I am honoured to have been a part of it. I hope you will enjoy flicking through the photos of the traditional artwork of our beloved canals, nearly 5000 miles away in America.