Salmon Museum saved from the flames

December 19, 2012

Just weeks before the fire at the NCLC offices, the North Coast conservation community suffered another loss: Ron Pittard, a renowned Seaside fish illustrator and artisan of realistic fish replicas, passed away in November. His resin fish sculptures are in private collections and interpretive displays around the world, and you have no doubt seen or may own one of his fish identification posters such as “Trout, Salmon and Char of North America.” Ron was a close friend of the land trust; a few years ago, he had donated his entire collection of reference books to NCLC. “Ron was the only genius I’ve ever known,” says NCLC founder Neal Maine.

In 1983, Clatsop County contracted with Ron to create what’s become known as the “Salmon Museum”: life-size replicas of the seven salmon and trout species native to the North Coast, mounted in a Plexiglas case above an equally realistic recreation of their habitat, complete with a salmon egg-laden gravel redd. “It’s probably the finest salmon display in the world,” Neal says. Frequently displayed at schools and festivals around Oregon, the Salmon Museum has for many years been in Neal’s care and stored in the garage at NCLC headquarters. Neal had intended to move it to the Seaside Library on Thursday, Dec. 6, as he does every December, to mark the return of coho salmon to Thompson Creek and other coastal streams. When, early Dec. 5, he learned about the fire, Neal assumed the Salmon Museum was among the losses. Until, that is, he got a phone call later that morning from the director of the Seaside Aquarium.

“I’ve got this salmon display in my truck,” Keith Chandler told Neal. “What do you want me to do with it?”

Seaside Aquarium staff member TIffany Boothe with the rescued Salmon Museum

It seems that when firefighters arrived at Circle Creek early Wednesday, the main house was already engulfed in flames, but fire had not yet spread to the garage. They entered and pulled out the first thing they encountered: a big rectangular box covered with a canvas tarp. It was also the last thing they saved; the fire quickly spread to the garage roof, and they had to withdraw. Only later did they pull back the tarp and realize what it was they had saved. It is the only thing in the house and garage that firefighters were able to rescue before fire took the rest.

Neal hopes that the Salmon Museum will be on display in the Seaside Library by mid-December, this time accompanied by a memorial display honoring the late artist.





  1. Judy Cowell says:

    Awesome display…thankfully it was saved.

  2. Jerome Arnold says:

    Thank you for this, the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. I assumed it was lost. Over the years I’ve borrowed it numerous times. The last time I borrowed it I nearly dropped it and consequently decided it was too precious for clumbsy me to be loading it in the back of my pickup, even with good help on the other end. I plan to make a special trip – along with some of my grand-children to the library to see it, soon. Again, thank you and thank you to the firefighters that saved it.

  3. Jerome Arnold says:

    Woops, I misspelled clumsy and hit the post comment button before checking.

  4. teresa says:

    Thanks for your memories of the Salmon Museum Jerome- it really is a special piece. Hopefully it will be up at the library soon!

  5. Until now, I was not aware of the Salmon Museum. After this announcement, I am definitely going to visit the Seaside Library and spend some quality time studying it and appreciating the craftsmanship.

    This is some great news in the midst of tragedy!