Facination With Plastination

Students often yawn when lectured about the human anatomy, but the Body Worlds 2 exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science gets to the heart of the matter. Last Friday evening, around 120 Biology level 500 students went to the Boston Museum of Science to visit the “Body Worlds 2 Exhibition.” This exhibition of the human anatomy consists of a variety of preserved, dissected human bodies. This gives visitors the opportunity to This one-of-a-kind exhibit resided at the museum for more than five months and received an overwhelming response from the public. The museum even had to extend evening visitation hours of the exhibit to accommodate the influx of interested viewers. The Biology teachers of Phillips Academy booked tickets more than a month and a half in advance due to the popularity of the display. Three different versions of the “Body Worlds” exhibit have traveled worldwide, educating more than 20 million viewers in 30 different cities. The tour has been displayed in Tokyo, London, Munich, and Vancouver, and now is touring major cities in the United States. Anatomy has always served as inspiration the art world. For example, Leonardo da Vinci rummaged through battlefields and dissected bodies of soldiers in order to learn more about the human body. One of his most famous creations, the “Vitruvian Man” depicts a perfect man’s anatomy, showing viewers that bodies are not only ascetically attractive, but also scientifically beautiful. Each body part is in proportion to the others. The purpose of the exhibit is to teach anatomy in an innovative way that also possesses artistic value. The “Body Worlds” exhibit presents German scientist, Gunther von Hugen’s, greatest invention, Plastination. Patented in 1977, his groundbreaking scientific method prevents a person’s body from decaying after he or she dies. Plastination works by saturating all of the muscles, bones, and organs with chemical polymers. This process produces a hardened, plastic body for the world to observe. Aside from the incredible scientific innovation of Plastination, the creativity with which the models are displayed is even more interesting. Each model seems to possess its own personality. Each Plastinate is posed to illustrate different anatomical features and functions. A soccer player lunging to punt a ball, a pair of figure skaters spinning in unison, and a baseball player slugging a homerun were a few of the crowd favorites. A piece called “The Bureau” was especially creative, trying to convey that human body parts and organs are packed very tightly together. In order to discern one organ from another, in this model, the chest and rib cage opened up like a door to reveal a heart and eyeballs were pulled from the face like a drawer. Also, to expose the central organs located in the body’s torso, the body in piece “The Diver” was split into two. The woman’s front side bent forward in a diving position, while her entire back side was separated and pulled behind, creating a V-like pose, leaving her essential organs stacked up in a column in the middle. Von Hagens claims that using Plastination for teaching anatomy is more effective than traditional techniques. Typically, to look for tumors or blood clots scientists squint at old black and white x-rays trying to tell the differences between the blurred grayish shadows. In a real body, these problem areas and their colors, shapes, and positions are easily identified. One of the most stirring displays in the exhibit was the Plastinates of a healthy lung, a heavy smoker’s lung, and a coal miner’s lung. With the three different lungs lying side-by-side in comparison, viewers really could understand the adverse affects of smoking. Humans use bodies as vehicles for many different expressions of art, such as dancing ballet on stage or modeling designer outfits on runways. The bodies in this exhibit, however, are stripped of any excessive adornments, exposing every pulsing vein and sinewy nerve. That’s real beauty.