Pooseum: Tasmanian museum dedicated to poo wins three-year heritage battle with council over sign
A small Tasmanian museum “dedicated to all things poo” has won its years-long fight with its local council to display a sign depicting a penguin projectile pooing.
The Pooseum – “where talking about poo is not taboo” – contains a large selection of animal dropping displays and informative exhibitions explaining all the practical uses of dung in the wild and in modern society.
Karin Koch, the owner of the museum located in the historic village of Richmond, north-east of Hobart, said she was “over the moon” after the local Clarence council voted to approve her retrospective heritage application for the museum’s large sign.
The sign displays the word “Pooseum” underneath a cartoon penguin bending over and letting out a long horizontal stream of excrement. It was originally built without a permit and Koch was told it would either have to be rebuilt or removed as the size and orientation didn’t comply with the town’s heritage code.
“It has been very stressful for three years and definitely I expected on Monday for the outcome to be exactly the opposite,” she said.
Council officers had recommended the retrospective application be rejected, with the Clarence city mayor, Doug Chipman, confirming it was the officers’ view that “the presentation of the business wasn’t consistent with the heritage aspects of the village”.
But, despite this recommendation, the application was approved at a meeting of councillors on Monday night, by eight votes to four, following an impassioned speech in support of the sign from councillor Luke Edmonds.
“Tonight I’m hopeful we’ll see the end to a saga that’s dragged on since 2019. You don’t have to walk [far] around Richmond to see there is other signage in this area that’s larger, more cluttered and more of a threat to the heritage values of the town,” he said. “The signage has been in place for years and the sky has not fallen in.”
Koch said she decided to go ahead with lodging the application – despite previously being told it would almost certainly be rejected – because council officers began to voice objections to a small bronze statue of a dog doing a poo.
The dog statue, which is also displayed outside the museum, is titled Pooby-Doo.
“I had already started to dismantle the sign outside … when I received an email from the general manager who told me, ‘that’s not enough for us now, we also wanted to remove the window panels and the bronze dog’,” she said.
“That’s when I said, OK, this nightmare has to stop. I just can’t give in, I can’t do that. I have to go and fight this.”
Chipman confirmed that while he personally was not particularly concerned with the appearance of the museum the council officers were looking to make more changes.
“It wasn’t just the one sign at the front. There was signage at the side, which included the [bronze] animal and the way the windows were covered over with pictures,” he said.
The fate of Pooby-Doo became central to the Pooseum fight, with Edmonds stating before the vote that the local government was overreaching in their attempts to control the heritage look of the town.
“The problem with a small diagonal sign has morphed into an issue with a small bronze dog and some photos in a window. I have concerns about the reach of the council that we can object to a small bronze animal,” he said.
Chipman voted against approving the application but said he was happy to see the saga concluded.
“I didn’t feel [that] strongly I guess, but I did feel a duty as mayor to support the planning scheme as it was interpreted. But I certainly don’t have any difficulty at all with the fact that council was has gone through with it, and approved it,” he said.
“Everyone’s very pleased that it’s concluded, no matter what they thought of the individual signage.”
He said the battle was never about what was written on the sign. “It was about the size and orientation in regard to the heritage precinct.”
The council had sought public comment on the application for the sign and did not receive any objections from the local community.
“Despite all of its attention after being advertised, no representation was received against the signage, not a single one,” Edmonds said in his speech on Monday.
Koch said she had been flooded with support since her victory. “I’ve received so many emails, phone calls. People walking in all day to congratulate me,” she said on Wednesday.
“Everyone is absolutely stoked that this stupid and totally unnecessary drama is finally finished.”
Chipman said he was also pleased to see the Pooseum flourish.
“Despite Covid, I think it’s a relatively successful business. I know busloads of kids go in there from schools and things like that, so there’s a lot of interest in it.”