Beachcombing Museum

One Man’s Junk

For 40 years, John has been collecting our garbage off the beach. Here’s where you can visit it.

Published September 7, 2017

Drive along Highway 101 on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, just outside of Forks—home of Twilight vampires—and you’ll see a roadside monument, of sorts. The curious slow down and waver: take the road toward the improbable tower or keep to the planned schedule?

I stopped and met John Anderson, a retired plumber and 40-plus-year veteran of beachcombing. Last year, he opened the first North American beachcombing museum. Housed in what was once Anderson’s plumbing workshop, the collection typifies humanity’s peculiar relationship with stuff—from the age of organic pollution to the age of plastic pollution.

There is beauty to be found in the handwritten letters stuffed into glass bottles, in the Japanese glass fishing floats, and in the wavy lines of the ancient fossilized mollusks. There is a ghoulishness too: a candy-colored collection of plastic doll heads; hard hats that once sat on the heads of unknown laborers; the encrusted bristles of the most personal of items—toothbrushes. John’s Beachcombing Museum has it all.

More than anything, Anderson’s museum has an unambiguous record of how humans treat the ocean.