The Museum of Clean Opens In Idaho
After seeing a pre-electric sweeper displayed in the Edison Institute, Don Aslett had an idea: Why not dedicate an entire museum to the concept of clean?
For years Aslett, founder of Pocatello, Idaho-based Varsity Facility Services, showcased his collection of antique cleaning products at his cleaning company. But after acquiring 250 pre-electric vacuums in 2006, he decided he needed more space to show it off. So that same year he purchased a 50,000-square-foot brick warehouse dating from 1916 in Pocatello to be the future home of his museum. The warehouse has since been renovated to meet LEED:EBOM Platinum standards.
After five years of preparation, the museum officially opened in November 2011.
“The museum is a vehicle to give cleaning a presence,” says Aslett. “People are into sports, food, cars, politics, technology…cleaning is way down the list. If we do it right — because cleaning is the most important thing — it goes to the top of the list. And that’s what we have done with the museum. We’ve come up with angles that people haven’t thought about.”
Those new angles include a huge, upside down garbage can to walk through. Inside visitors can see how much waste they generate in a day, week, month and year. When visitors enter the museum, they are greeted with a replica of Noah’s Ark. The ark emphasizes the importance of water in the cleaning profession.
The museum showcases the past, present and future of cleaning. As a part of the past, a variety of cleaning artifacts are on display, including one of the world’s first motor-powered vacuums from 1902, which was horse drawn; brooms from all over the world; pre-electric vacuums that use suction created by a plunger; and early electric vacuum models.
“Anything that cleans, we display it,” says Aslett.
Aslett doesn’t want museum visitors to simply see the displays, but to interact with them as well. Visitors are encouraged to be hands-on and pick up a vacuum. Interaction, Aslett says, demonstrates how far the industry has come and shows people, especially janitors, how good they have it today.
“Lift a 1908 canister vacuum that weighs 60 to 70 pounds. Now lift a new one; see the progress,” he says.
To really experience progress, visitors can learn what it was like to be a chimney sweep by stepping into a cramped chimney and shutting the door.
“It’s black in there,” says Aslett. “That tells a story. People come out pretty wide-eyed.”
Of course, since it’s a museum, there’s also artwork that depicts cleaning and sculptures made from cleaning product parts.
The museum isn’t aimed only at those in the cleaning industry, or even just adults. For children, there is the Kid’s Clean World, a three-story sphere filled with interactive activities that teach children how to clean.
For example, kids can sweep floors, wash windows and recycle.
Besides attracting visitors interested in learning about the evolution of clean, the Museum of Clean features facilities for hosting seminars, workshops, weddings, parties and even outdoor activities such as concerts.
“I’m sold on the word ‘clean’ and I think sometimes in our industry we overlook how valuable clean is,” says Aslett. “Things unclean depreciate…Clean has a huge power.”
For more information, including visiting hours, visit www.museumofclean.com.
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