As if weren’t enough to see The Dead Sea Scrolls at Discovery Place last summer, this summer we got to see Gunther von Hagen’s Body Worlds...Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies. I have found people are either totally fascination or find it revolting. Both John and my brother, who love movies like Saw and Hellraiser thought it sounded horrible. But my sister-in-law, Elaine, and myself though it sounded fascination. So thankfully she agreed to go along with me.
Over the last 12 years more than 20 million people have seen the exhibit worldwide. This is the first time the exhibit has been shown in the South East.
The focus of the display is to promote a healthy lifestyle. The exhibit displays healthy organs along side of diseased ones to show you how an unhealthy lifestyle hurts the body. For example you get to see the diseased lungs of a smoker compared to the healthy lungs of a non-smoker. As if I actually needed reinforcement on my lifelong distain for smoking, this made me really glad I never gave in pressure and started smoking.
It also opens up how the human body looks to us ordinary folks. You get to see how every muscle and fiber interconnects and works to make the human body so remarkable.
Plastination fuses the science of anatomy and polymer chemistry in such a way that it can permanently preserve the human body, including muscles, tissues, and veins. The tissues have their fluids removed and replaced with acetone. Later this is removed and the body can now accept the polymers. This process and drying is repeated several times until the composition is correct. It can take only a few days for only body parts to be completed, while it can take weeks to complete whole bodies. The scientists use reactive polymers that are compatible with human tissues.
Gunther von Hagens
Gunther von Hagens was born in 1945 in Alt-Skalden Poland, then part of Germany. To escape the Russians his family would eventually move near Berlin, Germany. When he was 6 years old he was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder that almost killed him. It was while he was in the hospital that he first became fascinated with science and the human body.
In 1965 he entered Jena University’s medical school. But his career would soon be cut short as he was jailed for 2 years as a political prisoner. In 1970 he entered the University in Lubeck to finish his education. He graduated in 1973 and spent a year doing his internship. The following year he became part of the Anesthesiology and Emergency Medical board at Heildberg University. In 1975 he invented the process of preserving bodies through planstination.
He would soon open his own company called BIODUR productions which distributes polymer and medical equipment to over 400 institutions in 40 countries. In 1993 he opened the Heidelberg Institute for Plastination which preserves bodies for further education purposes as well as the Bodies exhibit. He first exhibited his Bodies exhibit in Japan in 1995. His exhibits continue to draw crowds and von Hagens continues his work in the education and scientific fields.
The bodies and contovesary
It has been reported that the Institute obtains its bodies from such sources as unclaimed bodies to executed Chinese prisoners. But the truth is all the bodies you see on display come from people who have donated their body to the institution to be used for scientific purposes. These people clearly understand what is going to be done with their body and the important information gathered from their donation. There are currently 8000 people who have agreed to donate their bodies, 450 have already passed. Giving the institute has plenty of willing participants and no need to use unsavory resources. You too can sign up to donate your body and maybe even go on tour!
The Charlotte exhibit
Discovery place is playing host to this remarkable show until October 28. Now unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls, this exhibition was far less crowded and allowed visitors time to enjoy this fascinating display instead of having visitors pushed and shoved around. I am not sure if that was due to the fact we were here at the beginning of the exhibit this time, or if Discovery Place learned from the DSS display and decided to not allow as many people though at one time.
The exhibit gave a wide variety of displays. They offered full bodies posed in a variety of position such as playing chess, dancing, lounging, skateboarding, and even riding a horse with the horse exhibited as well. You can see displays of organs, veins, and tissues. You can also see where bodies have been sliced up giving you an even more in-depth look at the body. Since this is the bible-belt one of the most controversial exhibits featured reproduction. It included stages of a fetus, fetuses, and a woman with a baby in her womb. Again these bodies were donated and died of natural causes. No abortions were performed to obtain the fetuses.
9am - 6pm Monday - Wednesday
9am - 8pm Tuesday - Sunday
$18 (students w/ID/seniors)
$16 (children 6-13)
$8 (children 5 and under) But they did not charge admission for my 7 month old niece.
Advanced ticket purchases are highly recommended. Tickets are sold for certain time periods.
Your admission does allow you into the rest of Discovery Place. You can purchase combo tickets for the exhibit and IMAX. There is an IMAX Human Bodies movie as well. There are medical professionals at the exhibit to answer any question you might have or better explain what you are seeing.
Discovery Place is located in the heart of uptown on the corner of Church and 6th. The museum is fully handicapped accessible. The museum has restrooms, ATM’s, a gift shop, and a café. In additional there is a gift shop just for Bodies souvenirs. Parking is $7. There are other parking lots in the area. Again be careful where you park and read signs BEFORE you leave.
The exhibit does not carry an age limit. Families should use common sense though when making your decision before you purchase tickets. The exhibit does contain male genital on display. Small children may find the exhibit too creepy or boring. Think about your child’s limits before you decide to take him or her.
There are two other Body exhibits currently going on.
Montreal 5/10-9/16 Montreal Science Center
Portland 6/7-10/17 Oregon Museum of Science & Industry
San Jose 9/27-1/26/08 Museum of Innovation
St. Louis 10/19-3/2/08 St. Louise Science Center
Baltimore 2/2-9/1 2008. Maryland Science Center
If you get a chance to see this exhibit, you really should. To me the plastination made the bodies look like something they would use as a prop in a movie. I didn’t find it remotely scary or disturbing. It was just intriguing. I also found having a bit of a since of humor helps break any morbidly to the exhibit. When viewing a tumor I did my best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression of "it’s not a tumor" (from from Kindergarten Cop ) and got quite a few laughs. Also the veins I am assumed had colored added to it and looked like a big pile of bright red fuzzy yarn. I told my niece it was Elmo veins and several people started laughing.
The exhibit is there to entertain and educate the public. It reminds us just how delicate our bodies are and how we need to take care of them. Which with all of our medical problems today, it is probably one of the best reminders to take care of your health out there.
Very highly recommended