Posted by: Ken Wheatley | September 4, 2007

A Collection of (Body) Parts

Yesterday we went to one of the most interesting and strange exhibits I’ve ever been to. It’s called “Bodies…The Exhibition.” If you’ve not been, you must go.

The exhibit has been open for several months now. Originally it was scheduled to end next week, but apparently there’s been so much interest from schools, that they are holding it over until November 2007. After spending almost three hours there, I can see why.

Part of the surreal aura is that the exhibit is being held in what was a Mays department store. An odd place for an exhibit that’s for sure. It costs about $27 per adult to get in, not counting the optional audio equipment, which if two of you are going, you can rent one unit and it’s big enough that the both of you can listen at one time.

They tell you to allow about 90 minutes to get through everything. I don’t see how that’s possible. We took three hours and I could have spent longer, but we were starving and had to leave. Each area is divided into specialty sections (muscles, bones, nerves, respiratory, etc.) and it was very, very interesting and thought provoking. For a good part of the time we forgot that we were looking at the bodies of real people and got lost in the science of the “material.”

There were more than a couple of times when I found myself staring at the faces wondering who they were, what did they do when they were alive, if their families had ever seen them on display, etc.

All of the bodies are sans skin and some are posed to illustrate some athletic effort – throwing a football, a disc, or a baseball. The only body that had real eyeballs was laying down and was “only” displaying nerves from head to foot.

I think I can speak for many in that we were taken with the sheer accomplishment of literally peeling away various layers of skin and organs to get down to the inner workings. I kept wondering, “how did they do that?” Especially the vein structure of various organs. It all looked so perfect.

The fact that at one time these were living, laughing human beings with the normal complications of life was lost in the strain to comprehend the incredible complexity of the body. When we talked about it over dinner, we discovered that we had both been wondering how humans are able to survive past birth, or even birth itself.

The body has to be far more complicated than any machine conceived by man. And they break. A lot. Yet, by and large the complex interdependent systems, thoughts, automatic operations happen perfectly,  everyday.

As you exit the exhibit they show a complete body stripped of his skin (that’s laying in a case not too far from him) and I guess that’s supposed to bring it all together. He almost seemed alive. Like one of those mimes in Las Vegas that’s painted all silver and frozen in a pose until you tip her.

I left thinking “that’s what I look like inside. And he’s what I’m going to look like someday.”

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