Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES), St. Paul, Minnesota, has had a long and very successful partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM). Over the last decade, partnership activities have included joint water quality research, funding of educational projects
and shared involvement in river initiatives. These successful projects provided the foundation for taking an innovative approach to an exhibit on wastewater treatment. The planned construction of a new SMM on the bank of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul provided the opportunity to
make the connection between the river, drinking water, wastewater treatment and the systems and infrastructure investment that keeps it all working, day in and day out. Four years before construction of the new museum, MCES approached the SMM with an exhibit idea and funding to make it a reality.
This permitted the exhibit to be designed into the building. Visitors to the Mississippi River Gallery enter the bathrooms through a twelve-foot replica of a sewer pipe. Quoting a St. Paul Pioneer Press article “The bathroom walls are flush with information, so ripe with illumination
that the Minnesota Environmental Initiative recently recognized the public restrooms of the Mississippi River Gallery as the most environmentally educational site in the state.” The well-curated commodes reveal the inner workings of the regional wastewater treatment system. Inside
each bathroom stall door is a different “stall story” such as Toiletology, Mighty Microbes, Septic System, a flatulent epic titled “Ode to Odor” and by the sinks is information about e-coli and proper hand-washing. Throughout development MCES staff served as technical
reviewers of the bathroom exhibit as well as the Mississippi River Gallery. Opening to much fanfare on December 11, 2000, visitors have greatly exceeded the early SMM projection of one million visitors per year. Articles about the new SMM consistently mention the innovative bathroom exhibit
as a must-see.
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