96-Year-Old Barney Smith and His Toilet Seat Art Museum

Elizabeth Nicholas

96-year old Barney Smith is the owner of one of the most unusual museums in the world – one dedicated to toilet seat art.

Before he became an artist, museum owner and operator, the Texas native was a plumber, which goes at least part of the way towards explaining why he decided to open a museum dedicated to this particular facet of his former tradecraft in San Antonio, Texas.

The other inspiration? Walls of taxidermy mounts his father once made – Smith’s first creation was a toilet seat adorned with a pair of antlers. Smith’s first cache of materials were fifty toilet seats a client on a plumbing job was planning to throw away – Smith asked if he could have them instead, and an artist was born.

Smith recently decided to put his museum up for sale. He had originally promised his wife he would stop producing new pieces when he hit 500, but he blew by that milestone quickly, and his museum now features over 1,300 pieces of toilet seat art.

Smith keeps extensive records, and says he receives over 1,000 visitors each year. Many rave about Smith’s work. “There’s all of this detail captured on a toilet seat,” a visitor from Los Angeles told Atlas Obscura. “I never expected it to be this phenomenal.”

A wide array of historical memorabilia is scattered on Smith’s toilet seats. Among them, a piece of debris from the doomed Challenger space shuttle, a seat from Aristotle Onassis’ private plane, and another from Saddam Hussein’s palace.

His age has prompted Smith to sell to the museum, but he is insistent it go to a buyer who will keep the museum and collection intact, rather than selling it piecemeal. Time to start packing your bags for a visit.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article