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Lane County History Museum Reopens With New Exhibit & Hopes To Expand

Melorie Begay/KLCC News


The Lane County History Museum opened its doors Wednesday with a new exhibit featuring a mid-century boat and the McKenzie River.


A wooden double-ender McKenzie River drift boat is the latest addition to the museum. The LCHM has been closed since the pandmic took hold in Oregon. LCHM's Bill Barrett said the boat was built in 1959 by Prince Helfrich, a legendary outdoorsman and one of the original designers of the boat.

Helfrich built the boat for Art Larsen, the father of Wally Larsen who donated the boat to the LCHM. Barrett said the Larsen's kept the boat in pristine condition making it a rare find, especially after the Holiday Farm Fire.

Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News
Bill Barrett stands behind the McKenzie River drift boat that was donated by Wally Larsen. Barrett says he sees the boat as a piece of art given its condition and the materials used to build it.

“So many of these were destroyed in the fire up river last summer, there are people who lost collections of rare drift boats, so this really is unique to have something of this age and construction available for people to see," Barrett said. The display includes original paddles and historic facts about the McKenzie River.


The museum’s now open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturday. Masks are required. Ticketing information can be found here.


Beyond a new exhibit, LCHM has expressed interest in moving into the Oregon Electric Station building in Eugene. Barrett says the museum's looking to expand their focus to include more diverse stories.

“We’re very interested in growing this museum from being pioneer centric to telling all the stories of Lane County, when the first human-beings arrived and exploring all the different cultures through the years and how the town has grown,” he said.

Barrett added the building’s listing on the National Historic Register and its location in Eugene would also be beneficial.

He said in order to make it happen Lane County would need to to approve the idea, and the museum would need funding, specifically donations.

Operating as a restaurant, the Oregon Electric Station has been closed since March 2020.

Copyright 2021 KLCC


Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.
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