The Scent of Colome: A Visit to the Outhouse Museum
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Outhouse curator Richard Papousek’s contribution to humanity is more olfactory than “The Factory.” His Outhouse Museum in Colome is a small shrine to the historic design of private spaces.
The project began about fifteen years ago and a few miles down the road in Gregory, where Papousek formerly ran an antique shop. The museum came into being as a tourist draw, but according to some grew into something much more than that, and according to some others is still just a tourist draw.
“As a kid, I grew up with outhouses,” says Papousek. “We had them at our school and on our farm, and they’ve all kind of disappeared. And I thought this would be kind of neat to make a little collection, so I did that behind my store.”
He put an ad in the paper. “People thought I was crazy, but they did come across with some unique outhouses.” His collection includes a double-door, a doggy outhouse and a shack reputedly frequented by Calamity Jane.
The Gregory museum opened to some national media fanfare, then settled into its existence as an outhouse collection in a small town on US Highway 18. After Papousek closed the shop, the museum spent a few years in a temporary home then went away.
The museum is making a comeback in its new digs in an alley behind Main Street in Colome. Papousek has brought back some of the classics, along with some new, old outhouses, locally acquired. Each is accompanied by a summary of collected oral histories about its provenance and notable visitors received. “Each one has a unique story,” he says, though, “sometimes it might get embellished a little. It’s outhouses, what do you expect?”
Perhaps this installation will set down roots. “Gregory didn’t really want to be known as the dump of the world,” says Papousek. “I come to Colome and they welcomed it with open arms.” The city even laid some new gravel in the alley.