A body of knowledge
New exhibit gets under your skin
Sunday, January 23, 2005
It was good, but gross.” That anonymous comment, written in a guest book, sums up “BODY WORLDS: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies.”
The cutting-edge exhibit, which opens Feb. 4 at the Museum of Science and Industry, has been drawing crowds at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where we had a sneak peek.
Our bottom line: This is an exhibit you won’t want to miss.
But children, especially younger, more sensitive ones, should be adequately prepared for what they’ll see, says Cindy Kirk, a teacher and mom of two boys, ages 4 and 7, in Los Angeles who saw the exhibit at the California Science Center.
And they’ll see plenty.
There are more than 200 anatomically correct specimens, all of which come from real people who agreed to donate their bodies to be preserved through a process called plastination and displayed in this traveling exhibit.
Invented in 1977, the plastination process replaces natural fluids in the body with reactive plastics, which initially are pliable. This allows the bodies to be posed before hardening. The result is a fake, plastic look that makes it difficult at times to remember that these once were real people.
In addition, several of the so-called “plastinates” are posed in a way that is designed to help viewers understand the relationship between parts of the body. But some, including a man holding his skin, are overly dramatic and lend a cheesy, wax museum feel to the exhibit.
Despite those small drawbacks, this exhibit offers easy-to-understand lessons in anatomy, physiology and health.
Twenty-five “plastinates” are whole bodies that demonstrate the relationship among organs.
Other parts of the exhibit focus on individual body systems. The circulatory system was reconstructed, blood vessel by blood vessel, to create a three-dimensional model that looks like a batch of bright red cotton candy. And the muscle man demonstrates that when we’re reduced to bones and muscles, even big people can seem rather small.
The exhibit also uses diseased organs to teach some lessons about healthy lifestyles. Some, such as the smoker’s lungs and the ulcerated stomach (which elicited a chorus of disgusted “ewwws” from viewers in California) were particularly difficult to view.
In short, this is an amazing journey inside the human body, but it is not for the squeamish.
Understanding that, the museum will not admit children under 13 without an adult. Further, because it is so concerned about how children will react to this powerful exhibit, the museum is asking teachers to send a letter home to parents before bringing schoolchildren there on field trips.
Because it proved so popular in California, the Museum of Science and Industry will offer extended hours for BODY WORLDS only. From Feb. 4 to March 20, the hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Wednesday and 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. From March 21 until the closing on Sept. 5, hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
Combined admission to the museum and BODY WORLDS is $21 for adults, $11 for children ages 3-11 and $17 for seniors. Admission for the after-hours showings of BODY WORLDS only is $16 for adults, $9 for children and $15 for seniors. The Museum of Science and Industry is at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. For more information, call (773) 684-1414 or (800) GO-TO-MSI or visit www.msichicago.org.
Patty Keyuranggul and Cindy Richards
Editor’s note: This “plastinate” of a man kicking a soccer ball will not be included in the Museum of Science and Industry display. However, we chose to run it rather than one of the other photos because we consider it the least graphic of the available images. We thought it important to run a photo of a “plastinate” so parents can better judge whether this is suitable for their children, since parts of this exhibit can be disturbing.