FLUSH recently got to visit the "Ô merde!" exhibit at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City (Canada)! It was a delightful time, and we're excited to share highlights from the tour.
A Journey from Creation to Reuse
The exhibit is designed to be a journey from start to finish with poo. It started with the act of pooing and its taboo nature. It then went into the different kinds of toilets out there – over time and space – and their uses. Finally, it ends with poo treatment systems and sustainable ways to use poo beyond just forgetting it in a landfill. Below we'll go through some of the highlights!
The exhibit explored the taboo nature of poo - or shit, rather - is a modern Western invention over the last few hundred years, specifically by the Catholic Church during the Renaissance campaign campaigning poo was dirty and "sinful." In other Eastern cultures, the left hand is the one you use to clean yourself after defecation and is seen as a forever dirty part of your body. It's pretty wild, considering how quintessential the act of pooing is for living beings and the fact that more people living in one place indicates harder-to-manage poo.
There are pockets of poo culture, though! They showed artifacts of the Caganer in Spanish nativity scenes, a piece of art where an Italian artist canned some of his poo, poo Pez dispensers, and swag from poo-related restaurants in Asia. They also shared some deities and demons associated with poo from different parts of the world.
The exhibit then explains with life-sized visuals how to interpret your poo health with the Bristol Stool Chart, followed by helpful tips on how to regulate your bowels with aids such as raspberry leaf and Metamucil.
One you learn about pooing, you enter an area that looks like large public toilet stalls. Once you go further in, you realize that each stall is a deep dive into different toilet cultures with poo.
One stall describes how the public toilets of Ancient Rome were designed to encourage open business discussions. Another stall looks at how poo management changes over someone's life – from infant to geriatric years. It also highlights the challenges for people with incontinence, GI diseases, or parcopresis (aka shy bowel syndrome).
Photos (left to right): Nomadic toilet stall, and the stall for the houseless (Credit: FLUSH/K Worsham)
A set of stalls look at how astronauts have taken great care to poo in space. It also reviewed how nomadic people – on cruise ships, in camper vans, or the houseless – struggle to find safe places to poo, including sometimes resorting to pooing outside.
Photos (left to right): Eco-toilet stall, several images of outside toilets (Credit: FLUSH/K Worsham)
One stall educates on eco-toilets, pit latrines, and/or privies that focus on composting toilet waste in natural settings, like parks.
Another stall also celebrates the East Asian cultural phenomenon of Kakawaii, where poo is made cute and is shared as good luck. And how the Japanese culture takes pride in ensuring their toilet spaces are clean and comfortable.
Ô merde! took time to explore moving poo from the toilet to treatment. They also brought up the pernicious trends of fatbergs in our sewer systems.
Using Poo for Good
In a few sections, the exhibit also talks about doing good for poo – and making poo for good. First, the exhibit talks about the Gates’ movement to reinvent the toilet. Then, it discussed the future of using poo for medical purposes, like fecal transplants, to improve gut health. Lastly, it discussed ways to use poo for circular economy uses – from soil fertilizer to briquettes to fueling public buses. Finally, the exhibit mentions that the waste-to-energy market could be worth about $6 billion in the next decade!
Making Poo Fun!
Photos (top to bottom): The CACArcade's wonderful room and a few games (Credit: FLUSH/K Worsham)
The best part of the exhibit was the bounty of fun, engaging games to play and learn about poo!
They had a fart monitoring station – you farted into a sensor to see how much hydrogen sulfide you emitted.
They had a wheel spin where they "prized" you with a specific sanitation system to could flush into– from a sewer system to an unsafe toilet.
They had loads of arcade games to play, too! The arcade games included one where you treated wastewater, another where you managed C.diff in your gut, and another where you kept Pacman from getting food poisoning.
We really loved this exhibit and hope you can also enjoy its educational and downright awesome features at some point!