Where We Live: Stark’s Vacuum Museum

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon has some great museums, from OMSI to the Portland Art Museum — but some of our museums are rather unusual.

Rick Nye is a vacuum cleaner expert and curator of the Stark's Vacuum Museum in Portland. (KOIN) 

Like the museum dedicated to a common household appliance.

Rick Nye is a vacuum cleaner expert.

“I’ve been in the vacuum business for about 42 years,” Nye said. “It’s basically what I’ve done all my life.”

Nye curates the vacuum museum at Stark’s Vacuums on Northeast Grand Avenue.

Stark’s has been around for 87 years and Nye has been an employee for 24 of them.

From the 1900s through the 1970s, the museum traces the history of vacuum cleaners. The collection started with customer trade-ins and grew from there.

More about the Stark’s Vacuum Museum 

“They’ll come over here, and they’ll say ‘Ahh-my grandmother had that vacuum’ or ‘My grandmother had this vacuum,’ ‘I remember this vacuum as a kid’ You know!?” Nye said. 

It took two people to run the 1910 Cyclone — one to vacuum and the other to crank the wheelbarrow-like contraption. 

“It acted like a piston and the bellows moved up and down,” Nye said. 

The Hoover Constellation at the Stark's Vacuum Museum in Portland. (KOIN) 

The Hoover Constellation from the 1960s glided on air.

“You know, in the ’50s, they were trying to make everything like Sputniks and all that stuff, and that’s how Hoover advertised this like space-aged,” Nye said. “That Eureka up there — that was half vacuum-half hair dryer.”

Nye said modern vacuums are safer and more efficient but looking at the old ones is a lot more fun.

Portland isn’t the only city with a vacuum museum. There’s also one in St. James, Missouri, and another in Canton, Ohio — home of the Hoover Company. 

Watch: Hoover Constellation ad

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