Time for a field trip. Corpses on display!
For those that haven’t gone to see it or know what it’s about; essentially it is a traveling display, which is the brainchild of Gunther von Hagens, consisting of donated corpses that have undergone a plastination process which allows the muscles, organs and bones to be preserved and positioned into various poses.
Since my wife is an MRI technologist, she was able to help me with some of the anatomical functions for several body parts I don’t deal with on a daily basis like she does. Originally she was not too thrilled about going when I first heard of it, like I was, as it is too closely related to the work she does every day. However, the variety of displays of bodies and organs proved to be interesting to her as well. She told me as we were leaving that she sees these in two dimensions on her scanner all the time, but to see them up close and (obviously) life-sized was rather interesting.
What makes this more than just a standard anatomical study are several things. First, the knowledge that these were living people and functioning specimens at one time gives it a stronger sense of ‘realism’ than a plastic mock-up. Second, the sheer number of various organs, tissues, bodies and even fetal remains from various stages of growth. Third, the interesting and art-like displays the bodies have been posed in.
What I thought most compelling about the displays were those where they had carefully removed the brain and primary central nervous system from a corpse and splayed it out as it normally would be; the intricate arterial and capillary network of the arm and head – sans bone, flesh and other tissue; and the various healthy primary organs placed next to diseased counterparts. One of the more frequently displayed comparisons was the healthy lung and the smoker’s lung. If you normally smoke, attend this exhibit and still walk out a smoker then you are seriously committed to your miserable habit and premature death. They even had a drop box for cigarettes and a Yule Brenner video on the way out the exit to help drive home the idea of quitting.
Although a number of very interesting displays were on hand to show smoker’s lung, coal-miners lung, arthritic joints, diseased kidneys, brain’s with Alzheimer’s, fetal growth from weeks 4 to 8, etc.; several of their larger and possibly better known posed cadavers were not on display. Regardless, the show in San Jose was sizable and took us 90 minutes to meander our way through (without the optional electronic audio tour).
A good companion after seeing the exhibit is the Body Worlds book which is conveniently located in the gift shop on your way out – it is 318 pages of a wealth of information regarding the exhibit tour as well as anatomical information and photos of their posed human and animal bodies.
Body Worlds is simply amazing (which is the only reason I would write about it on my blog) and is something that should be seen by the entire family if it is anywhere near where you live.
I must say that after walking through this I feel it shows just how amazingly intricate and delicate the human body is and it makes me want to eat better, exercise my body and brain more and wear a padded suit from head to toe all the time. Hopefully this feeling will pass when the weather is good and I want to ride my motorcycle…