Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Education: Body Worlds 3

One of the strangest things in recent years has been a phenomenon that I have found particularly odd. In just about every city I have visited, I have just missed a “Body Worlds” exhibit. It’s rather bizarre, since the concept intrigued me and I have wanted to go see it, yet I always just miss it. So, this weekend, I took a mini vacation and ventured up to Houston to see the last days of the “Body World 3” exhibit at the “Houston museum of Natural History”. It’s strange that I would want to see this exhibit so badly, considering my natural aversion to all things in the medical field, and by aversion I mean when I hear about medical stuff I get incredibly squeamish. Yet I was not disappointed with the exhibit. (Sorry for the lack of photos, cameras were prohibited in the exhibit).

Obtaining tickets proved to be a little more difficult than I anticipated. First, tickets sold out for most of the weekend. Now, for understanding, that was from Friday up until Monday, and the exhibit was running for a full 24 hours each day for the Labor Day weekend. Due to the overwhelming demand, I got tickets for 2:15 am on Sunday morning. That kind of added a dimension of creepiness to the whole trip. In fact, my travel companion decided that Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was a perfect soundtrack for the adventure. I personally think he’s nuts…

The exhibit itself is incredibly educational. While the posed cadavers are the focus of media attention, the entire exhibit is actually much more in depth education into the components and functions of the human body. There were numerous glad cases with individual body parts, an explanation of the function of the body parts, and examples of body parts with various diseases. For example, in the Brain section, there is a “healthy” brain, and a brain with Alzheimer’s disease. In the section explaining the respiratory system, there is a health lung next to a smoker’s lung and a lung with cancer. It made me very thankful that I don’t smoke. And the full stretched nervous system and circulatory system were incredibly thought provoking, in the sense that you really begin to respect the complexity of these systems and feel an awe towards creation.

In regards to the posed cadavers themselves, I felt these were done in a very tasteful manner. It does give one a particular perspective on the fragility of life. One particular exhibit had the body of a man carrying his skin over his shoulder, with his muscular system exposed. The plaque that went with the exhibit described the purpose of the skin in the function of the human body and the muscular system. Another exhibit had the body of a man riding the cadaver of a horse. This was surreal as in the mans right hand was his brain, and the left hand was holding the horses brain. While shocking, the plaque explains the difference in sizes between the two brains, and compares the various body parts between the two creatures. Things that were exposed on the human were exposed on the horse as well. This showed an interesting similarity between the various functions, as well as the differences. There was a bit of entertainment with the exhibits as well. One exhibit showed a group of cadavers playing poker. I was a little amused that people were more fascinated by the hands the bodies were holding. But explanations of the brain functions, the eyes, and the muscles used to coordinate holding the cards legitimized the theme.

My overall impression was that I felt that trip was worthwhile. I typically get grossed out by this kind of stuff; however the exhibit did not phase me. There was a portion which was a bit of an advertisement for the Plastination Center that showed how some people were so inspired by the exhibit that they signed up to be volunteers post-mortum. While I was enlightened, and the concept of “immortality” is somewhat appealing, the exhibit still did not sway me that way. While there were those like me who were educated and respected the spirit of the exhibit, there were still a few who snickered at the exposed genitalia of the bodies. Some people are more mentally mature, I suppose, how strange that the children were better behaved than the adults. While this is a point of the controversy of the exhibit, the people who snickered are the same group that I feel should not be allowed to attend public education since they take it for granted.

If the exhibit comes around again, I will probably make it a point to see it.

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