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December 22, 2006


I went to see the exhibit Bodies yesterday. This features actual human bodies, preserved via some process that leaves their appearance intact, and dissected in various ways to show the internal detail.

I thought the exhibit was amazing. As the audio guide pointed out, it lets you see inside the human body in a way that only doctors have been able to. Quite impressive the way everything is squooshed together just so. And some of the ways that people are displayed is fascinating--for example showing only the blood vessels, or only the nervous system. Many of the people had been smokers, and the image of blackened lungs contained within an otherwise healthy (relatively-speaking) body should hopefully be enough to scare a few people into quitting.

There were a lot of children there. I don't think it is inappropriate for children (young children probably won't quite "get" that these are real bodies). The only reason I wouldn't (and am glad I didn't) bring my kids is because they would probably want to go through the exhibit faster than you.

At the end of the exhibit they have a log book to sign. It's filled with the expected praise and horror, but also some funny stuff...on the day we went there were two different drawings of a child throwing up, plus one person who wrote "WTF is an ileum?" And there were people claiming that the level of detail revealed was proof that humans were created.

Some of the comments stated that the bodies were Chinese political prisoners and that this was hidden. I don't know where they came from, but I'm not sure why there provenance is such an issue...after all medical schools dissect people all the time (certainly I don't think they were healthy living people who were "harvested" for this purpose). I suppose there is some concern over whether they consented before they died. But I agree with the statement on the wall at the end, that the bodies were treated with the respect they deserved.

One thing I think would have been even more interesting would be to show bodies at different ages, and to show the effects of wounds on the body. The website mentions that by law they cannot reveal anything about the identity of the people, so I suppose both of these wouldn't be allowed. Plus, it might give more people the willies if knowing details of the backstory made the bodies seem more real.

The exhibit runs through April 1 in Seattle, and there are parallel exhibits in other cities. Definite worth the money, and get the audio tour also (which comes in both kid and adult versions).

Posted by AdamBa at December 22, 2006 04:44 PM

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If you enjoyed Bodies, I highly recommend driving up to Vancouver for Body Worlds 3 (showing till mid jan). I've seen two of the exhibits already, both are amazing beyond words. The bodies on display were all voluntarily donated before death. They used to have an online form you could fill out and sign in order to donate your own body :)

Posted by: anonymouse at December 26, 2006 04:37 AM