Let it never be said that museums don’t come in all shapes and sizes. In one fun case, this museum comes in the shape and size of a garage, and its contents in toilet seats.
Actually, this museum is a garage, and its contents are toilet seats. Yes, in San Antonio, Texas, you can find Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum.
Smith, 92, has more than a thousand toilet seats on display at his museum. This amounts to a lot of work. The retired plumber tells RoadsideAmerica.com: “I’m working day and night on toilet seats.”
Roadside America writes that Smith made his first local TV appearance in 1992, at which point he realized his collection had become a museum.
The toilet seats themselves depict a pretty vast set of subjects:
Once inside the garage, Barney likes to show visitors a video of his media highlights, then lead them through the lids — an enthusiastic, friendly tour guide. There are toilet seats for JFK, and the Corn Palace, and Barney’s appearance on Montel Williams.
One lid is coated with volcanic ash from Mount St. Helens, another frames a marijuana leaf (the lid is signed by San Antonio’s police chief), a third is mounted with handles from an old coffin that Barney dug up in his back yard.
The Space Shuttle Challenger memorial seat incorporates a hunk of insulation that washed ashore after it blew up (Barney asked NASA to authenticate it, but they haven’t yet). His Michael Jackson tribute seat was created in an artistic flurry on the day the pop performer died.
Smith, believe it or not, is not the first of his kind. In Boron, Calif., John Kostopoulis decorated toilet seats for decades before his 1996 death. His origin story, also captured by Roadside America before his death, belongs in the books:
Kostopoulos says that his toilet muse first struck entertaining the troops before the Battle of Casablanca in 1942. He painted Hitler on a toilet seat as a morale-boosting prop. Since then, no evil dictator has been spared this artistic indignity.
Tragically, Kostopoulos’s collection was destroyed when he died. Smith says he has taken steps to ensure that won’t happen to his. Wisconsin-based manufacturer Bemis Co., which makes toilet seats, will be moving the museum to its headquarters once he dies.
Smith’s visitors have been satisfied; the museum boasts a 4.5-star rating on Yelp.
photo credit: juliegomoll, Creative Commons/flickr