Touring the many fine museums in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, I came across two exhibits that struck me as utterly unique and quite brilliant: Displays in the restroom.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. Potty time is both sacred and profane, and hanging anything on the walls other than TP dispensers or hand driers is squicky and gross. But think of the potential.
You’ve got a captive audience. Once your patrons have dropped trou and popped a squat, they’re going to hang around for a bit. Take advantage of that time, Museum Folk! Put an easily wipe-downable panel behind the stall door and share some loo-related materials from your collection or historical factoids relevant to your institution’s mission and the business at hand.
The absolutely wonderful Mariners’ Museum in Newport News did just that. Behind every stall door in the men’s and women’s restrooms was a colorful panel detailing the trials and tribulations of “going” at sea. It fit both the mission of the museum and the mission of the immediate audience. Brilliant.
While not “mission” related, the Virginia Air and Space Center (VASC) had a tv playing something on their Apollo capsule in a second floor ladies room. I didn’t pay much attention to it, unfortunately, because I had to deal with a tired three-year old doing the potty dance and then assuage her fear of Dyson hand dryers. It was still very cool and I appreciate the fact that VASC’s exhibit and ed staff didn’t waste an opportunity to offer up knowledge. Watching a piece on space is better than staring off into space while waiting on line for the clean stall with toilet paper.
There are a lot of kids and hardcore space geeks who would probably flip their figurative shit over astronaut potty-related reading material. I’m not saying we need footage of Sunita Williams taking her morning constitutional, but some in situ info on how the women and men of the International Space Station go about their business would be interesting. If we can learn about how pirates pooped, why not astronauts?
This seems like a wasted marketing opportunity for many museums. I understand that some people might feel uncomfortable with corporate branding everywhere, but a deal with TP producers could fund conservation or education initiatives. Surely it’s something that Kohler or Charmin could get behind.