In July, I visited Chicago and took advantage of the opportunity to vist the Museum of Science and Technology where the renowned Body Works exhibit was on display.
The exhibit featured actual cadavers that had been preserved through a plasticination technique. Not only were individual entire bodies displayed, there were bodies displayed and posed to emphasize certain muscle groups, specific organs such as a smoker's lungs, enlarged hearts, diseased gall bladders and so on. The plasticination technique was refied to the point that even capillaries were able to be shown and not just major arteries and veins.
I found the exhibit to be in good taste and very informative. I was particularly interested in knees since I've had knee surgery and I got to see several types of knee injuries, knee replacements and osteo-arthritic knees.
A few weeks later, I was at home in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. The newspapers started alerting the public to a forthcoming exhibit at a Tampa museum, Body Revealed. The press reports indicated that the exhibits were controversial in nature with many objecting to the display of the cadavers as being disrespectful to the deceased. The State Anatomical Board got involved and denied the exhibit company the right to display the cadavers.
The issue revolved around the fact that this exhibit utilized Chinese cadavers whose families had never claimed the bodies. In addition, there were no releases from the deceased individuals or from relatives allowing the display of the cadavers. The museum contended that the Anatomical Board had authority to monitor the use of cadavers in medical educational venues but not for public educational purposes in a museum setting. Before the State could act, the exhibit company opened the exhibit with statements from lawyers presenting due process arguments.
If Egyptian mummies could be displayed without King Tut's family's authorization, why couldn't the remains of deceased, unclaimed Chinese individuals receive the same treatment? The State's Attorney backed off from staying the exhibit stating he had not received any lawful objections and that the Anatomical Board had no authority to prevent the exhibit of the cadavers.
The Letters to the Editors in the Tampa and St. Petersburg papers were filled with irate comments from a variety of writers who objected to the displays on moral and religious grounds. There was one model posed in a kneeling position with his plasticinized skin draped over his outstretched arm. The furor seems to have subsided and the exhibit is drawing such extensive crowds that tickets are being issued for particular viewing times.
Every body part and organ is like your face ... unique and individual to that person just like a fingerprint. The Body Word exhibit is now in Cleveland to be followed by a showing in Philadelphia. If you have a keen interest in the human body, it's structure and composition, the exhibit is a wonder to behold.