Monday, May 15, 2017

Been to the Toilet Museum Yet?

Oh, no?  Well pull out your frequent flyer miles and see if you have enough to get to Kita-Kyushu, Japan, or Suwan, South Korea, or New Delhi or closer to home, but not the same:  the American Sanitary Plumbing Museum, of Watertown (get it? ha ha) Maine.

America first; I think we can all agree on that ... In the '50s Charles Manoog began collecting antique plumbing items - toilets, sinks, bathtubs and the plumbing required for them.   In 1979, his son Russell renovated an old ice house and turned it into a museum.   One of the pictured toilets particularly intrigued me as it look liked it had been constructed of gray-green Wedgewood.  How stylish is that?  Wedgewood is more commonly used as table china.  Well ... logically from plate to toilet... but ...

In New Delhi, Sulalh's toilets range from 2,500 BC (basically a stone chair with stone walls on three sides) to the present-day Asian babies with warmed seats and a great deal more. 

No less than M.K. Gandhi said, "Sanitation is more important than independence."  The force behind this museum was Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, whose efforts opened up new worlds for the caste previously known as "untouchables."  Apparently, this class was forced to clean the toilets; after his efforts prevailed, they could use them, too. 

The ToTo Museum in Kita-khyushu is a paean to the Toto Plumbing company which traces its history.  For example, their traveling salesmen carried briefcases or suitcases filled with tiny porcelain models of all that was currently on offer.  They had to weigh a ton.  Those salesmen were clearly not weaklings.  Toto today makes a model that uses "electrolyzed water" said to automatically clean and deodorize the bowl. 

Not surprisingly, the leading item of interest to tourists returning to their own homes is:  Japanese toilets.  It's not mandatory to have a degree in engineering to use one, but from what I read, it couldn't hurt.

Suwon, South Korea really took it over the top and here is how.  Former Mayor Sim was born in his mother's parents' toilet.  He lived in a normal house for 30 years, then had it torn down and re-built to look like a white porcelain toilet.  He was celebrating having created the World Toilet Association.  When this toilet house was completed, an overnight stay to raise money for bigger and better, was $50,000.  There were no takers. 

Today the aerial view of the  building shows the resemblance.  Dotted around the grounds are such as a bronze copy of Rodin's "The Thinker."  He is not sitting on a rock if you get my drift.  Other bronze figures include men in the squatting position but whether or not they are thinking is not determinable. 

Another featured exhibit is Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" which is a white porcelain urinal.  It was sold at auction for $1.2 million. 

All in all these museum sound like they would be a fun visit as they seem to be exceptionally well done.  Still, would it have occurred to you to go visit a toilet museum?  Me either.  We learn something every day if we're paying attention.

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