Sunday, August 19, 2007

BODIES...The Exhibition

Yesterday I visited a controversial exhibition "BODIES...The Exhibition" at the South Street Seaport, New York. This exhibition displays real human bodies preserved with a polymer preservation process, which was developed by Dr. Gunthervon Hagens, a German scientist. First, tissue water is removed by submersion of a body into acetone. Then the acetone is removed in a vacuum chamber and the tissue spaces within the body are filled with liquid silicone rubber. Lastly, the silicone rubber is treated with a catalyst and hardened. The process can take from 24 hours to up to one year to prepare the whole body. Bodies filled with polymer are virtually indestructible. They are stripped of their skin, dissected, sliced, and posed -- the exhibition displays standing, playing basketball, running, and conducting an orchestra cadavers. This impressive exhibition features 22 whole bodies and more than 260 additional organ and partial bodies.

All these cadavers are unclaimed bodies from China. They were dissected at the Dalian University in Liaoning and leased for the exhibition. This raises legitimate issues of human-rights abuse since these people did not give permission for their bodies to be filled with liquid silicone rubber and put on display. However, Dr. VonHagens claims that 6,800 people have donated their bodies to his research, including 200 Americans.

Despite all controversy, in my opinion, this exhibition has tremendous educational value. Beauty and complexity of human body leaves visitors in awe. The exhibition displays human nerves, blood vessels, muscles, bones, brain, heart, lungs, intestinal and reproduction organs. There is a pre-natal section of the exhibition. Visitors can view fetuses in various stages of development, but this section can be bypassed if parents or teachers don't wish their children to view it.

The exhibition allows people to learn more about their bodies and encourages healthy lifestyle choices by presenting organs damaged by excess eating and smoking.

The visitors can view fat deposits, breast cancer, colon cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, and bone fractions.

Dr. Glover, chief medical adviser for BODIES, underlines that BODIES is a family exhibition and more than 250,000 children attended the exhibition.

The BODY's website suggests several classroom activities: create a travel brochure for the Human Skeletal System, create an anti-tobacco public service campaign, and create a brain health & safety handbook. It is suggested to visit the following websites with kids:,
Teachers can request a teacher's guide. The exhibition catalog is available for $20.

Tickets are $20 -27 and extra $6 for the audio tour. They offer a kid friendly version of the audio tour. View Minnesota Public Radio slideshow of The Body Worlds' Exhibition at The Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. View "Bodies: The Exhibition" slideshow.


Bodies: The Exhibition at
Website “BODIES...The Exhibition”
Benetti, W. (2006). Education or freak show? 'Bodies ... The Exhibition' cashes in on our own curiosity
Cunningham, G. (2006). A new way to view the body

Images are from the BODIES catalog.

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