Saturday, June 13, 2009

Joe "The Waterman" Shults' Museum

Joe Shults is a well-known face around Barrow. For years he delivered water to residents, one house at a time, with his tanker truck/water service business. Perhaps even more interestingly, he was known to do this in the dead of winter in a short-sleeve t-shirt. His knicknames include Joe "The Waterman" and "T-shirt Joe". Now 54, he has retired from the water delivery business, and focuses on helping out at Pepe's "North of the Border" Mexican restaurant, which his mom (Fran Tate) owns. He also has his own museum, located in his home, which he opens up to visitors at 10 pm (after he gets off work). All you need to do is make an appointment and he's happy to have you come by any day of the week to see his rare, vast collection.

Joe has spent the past 30 years or so collecting all sorts of old, rare, wonderful and strange items. Some of the things he has purchased himself (like many of the taxidermy pieces), many more have been donated to him, and some items he finds when storms wash in artifacts to the beach that have been on the ocean floor. He's also been known to go out in his boat after the ice breaks up and look for items ... recovering things like whaling guns, tools, etc.

His collection has garnered the attention of the Smithsonian ... they have wanted to borrow pieces for study, but he has a strict policy that nothing from his museum is sold (and offers for some pieces have been high), and nothing leaves the premises. He cherishes the items too much to risk having them lost or damaged. He has however let the experts set up camp at his house and several times they have spent a few days studying pieces on his back porch.

Joe makes sure everyone has a chance to see his collection. There is no entry fee, although donations are appreciated. But, if you're broke, he won't deny entry ... he has even had people bring empty beer/liquor bottles as their donation ... proof of why they are broke!


cam said...

He needs a website all his own. I would love to see some of the items he has in his museum!


Dr G said...

Yes, it is definitely a unique must-see! If you ever fancy a trip to Barrow - don't miss it!

Michael Carrigan said...

I've been to the museum, it's definitely something to see if you ever find yourself in Barrow, like I did.