Museums on Toilets?
By- Riniki Chakravarty Marwein
A group of writers from North East participating in the just concluded Sahitya Academy’s Festival of Letters were in for a surprise when they were taken for a visit to a museum. The Museum has nothing to do with any literary work barring one book case camouflaged as a toilet. In fact, it was the Sulabh International a noted social service organisation of the country.
The display includes a reproduction of a commode in the form of a treasure chest of the British medieval period and a reproduction of the supposed toilet of King Louis XIV. The famous king is reported to defecate in it even while holding court! There are toilet pots made of gold and silver used by the Roman emperors. The writers were so amused by the design of King Louis’ toilet that they took turns in posing the act for their personal cameras. The museum is not just toilets but also has some of the interesting and amusing objects and information sheets. One such display includes the technology transfer from Russia to NASA to convert urine into potable water. This was a deal of $19 million that time.
There are display boards with comics, jokes and cartoons related to humour on toilets. There are presentations on the sewerage system that existed during the Harappan Civilization. There are also information from the Lothal archaeological site on the development of toilets during the Indus Valley civilization. There is on information giving details about the flush pot designed in 1596 by Sir John Harington. He was a noted author and inventor of the flush toilet during Queen Elizabeth I’s regime. Initially intended for his personal use, Sir Harrington’s design today is a household name.
The five writers - Prof. Streamlet Dkhar, Dr. Apurva Saikia, Dr. Esther June Songwan, Dr. Crystal Marak besides this writer, were taken on a tour to the Sulabh campus that also houses the world’s only international museum of toilets. The writers had a glimpse of how the sanitation projects are designed and implemented on the ground. They also visited the skill development centre of the museum and witnessed how toilet waste can be recycled to produce fertilizer and biogas. An enthusiastic staff member made their experience more interesting by having them smell the dried balls made from toilet waste. The guests were pleasantly surprised when they got no smell from them.
The Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in Delhi is run by the Sulabh International, dedicated to the global history of sanitation and toilets. It even found mention in Time magazine. According to the magazine, the museum is one of the weirdest museums among the “museums around the world that are anything but mundane”. The museum was established in 1992 by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, a social activist, founder of Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement, recipient of many national and international awards. His objective in establishing this museum was to highlight the need to address the problems of the sanitation sector in the country, considering the efforts made in various parts of the world in this field since the third millennium BC. The museum has exhibits from 50 countries. Sanitation artifacts, spanning from 3000 BC through the end of the 20th Century, are arranged chronologically: “Ancient, Medieval and Modern.”
The museum’s exhibits bring out the development of toilet- related technology of the entire gamut of human history. Over time, they highlight social habits, etiquette specific to the existing sanitary situation, and the legal framework thereof. The items on display include privies, chamber pots, decorated Victorian toilet seats, toilet furniture, bidets and water closets in vogue since 1145 AD to the present. “I felt my prior limited knowledge of sanitation got enriched with scientific wisdom. It feels good to know that our Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro civilisations had far more sophisticated systems than the later western countries. And of course, we thoroughly enjoyed the toilet humour part of the museum,” one writer said after the visit.
Weirdest Museums in The World
By definition a museum is a building or institution that cares for and displays a collection of artifacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical, or scientific importance. But it might sound shocking that there are some museums in different corners of the world that are quite strange like the toilet museum of Sulabh International. There are bizarre museums of hair and even death. You name any odd thing there could be a museum for it in some parts of the world.
Here there are a few unique ones.
1. Museum of The Weird- Just like the name, this museum houses weird objects from all over the world. Set up in Austin, this museum features bizarre quirks such as real mummies, shrunken heads, and more.
2. Avanos Hair Museum- ‘Avanos Hair Museum’ is an unusual and surely one of the weirdest museums in Avanos town in Turkey. In a small cave, this museum features hair strands of more than 16,000 women. The walls and surroundings are completely covered with women’s hair with their names written against each.
3. Condom Museum- In Nonthaburi city, Thailand, the ‘Condom Museum’ is undoubtedly one of the weirdest museums in the entire world. Started by the Thai Health Ministry this museum enriches knowledge about sex and promotes safe sex. One will get to see condoms from many countries here.
4. Museum of Bad Art- Normally museums preserve and display good and rare art works. But there is truly a museum in Somerville, USA where one will find bad artworks from all around the world.
5. Museum of Death- There is a ‘Museum of Death’ in Hollywood, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. It might sound very negative but in contrast the aim of this museum is to give happiness to the crowd for staying alive. This museum has baby coffins, films of autopsies, pictures of crime scenes, artwork from various serial killers, and more.
6. Under Water Museum- The underwater museum in Cancun, Mexico is of breath-taking view and unbelievable sight. There are over 500 life size statues and sculptures underwater, fixed to the bed of the sea under pristine waters of Cancun showcase. This can be witnessed through glass boats, scuba diving, or snorkelling. The museum demonstrates the interaction between environmental science and art and also forms the biggest artificial reef in the world.