Sunday, October 15, 2006

Body Worlds 3

Friday night, another Cavern Denizen and I went to Science World to see the controversial exhibit, Body Worlds 3. We didn’t make it down there in time to play with all the toys that get locked up at six o’clock, unfortunately. We were in for an evening show.

And what a show!

Groups are allowed entry on a timed schedule, about fifteen minutes apart. But each person goes through the exhibit at his own pace...some faster than others. It took me about two hours to get through it, and I feel like I might have rushed it a bit. I’d like to go back and see it again.

There are audio units you can rent for a nominal fee if you want to hear about each display rather than read the cards. Next time, I’ll get the audio units. They look like phone receivers, and they play the display message when you dial in the display number on the keypad. Not exactly the same as Disney’s audioanimatronics setup, but not far from it.

There are two types of displays – whole body and special focus. The special focus ones concentrate on specific areas of the body, such as the hands and arms, the brain and head, or the internal organs. These displays are laid out on tables and enclosed in glass cases, and you find those toward the center of the rooms.

The whole body displays are towards the outer edges of the rooms, and they are virtually complete skeletons that are posed to show the musculature, skeleton, tendons, attachments, central nervous system, and sometimes the organs, as they would appear during athletic activity. I can’t remember all of them, but there was a ballet dancer -- a male, en pointe (unfortunately, yes, it was a male rather than a female; but Doctor von Hagen is an anatomist, not a ballet aficionado, or he would have known that men do not dance en pointe). You will see a photograph of the dancer if you click on the link in the first paragraph. There was a skateboarder. An archer (female – I promptly named her Artemis). A javelin thrower. One fellow holding up for display the largest organ of the human body...his skin. A cyclist. Gymnasts.

I didn’t actually count how many whole-body skeletons there were in the exhibit, but there were quite a few of them. Male and female, adult and child, embryo and fetus – not much was left out.

I already knew quite a bit about the human body, but I still managed to learn a few things. The liver is not an organ, it is a gland. Everything is smaller than I thought it was. Except the pancreas – that was bigger than I thought it was. And there can’t possibly be enough room in the torso for all that length of intestines!

Who was there? Ah, well...everyone in the world seemed to be crowded into those rooms, and quite a sampling from just about everywhere. Tourists, of course. But of the locals, a fair number of them seemed to be medical students, comparing notes with one another. Teenagers in couples and groups who may have started out looking for a giggle and changed their attitudes on their way through. Parents and grandparents with young children. A few singles. Y’know...people. From all over the place.

There was one mother there with her son and daughter who looked to be around nine or ten years old. I met up with them around the table that showed the reproductive organs, and the mother was pointing out the differences between the male and the female. The kids were paying serious attention. Nine or ten years old. Amazing.

The whole exhibit is not just an educational, scientific display. It is also an artistic display, whose medium is the human bodies that were specifically assigned to Doctor von Hagen and his work by their former inhabitants. I was impressed with the detail and care taken with each item on display. I was also impressed and gratified by the obvious honor and respect with which the work was presented.

Science World has some permission forms available for anyone who would like to volunteer his body to be used in future exhibits. I heard a fair number of people asking for them.

All in all, this is not something you can understand by reading what I write about it. You have to see it for yourself to fully appreciate it. I can tell you there was a ballet dancer, but you can’t see what I saw when you read that; and I can’t begin to describe it well enough with only words for tools. This is something you absolutely must experience for yourself.

And someday, I hope you do. I can guarantee that you’ll never be sorry.


There is a video here of the show from Chicago. Some of the displays are the same as the one in Vancouver right now, and some are different. But you will get a better understanding of the entire exhibit from the video than mere words can convey...


Blogger Balbulican said...

I saw the show at the Science Centre in Toronto. Simply amazing, and absolutely impossible to describe...the notion that within seconds what could have been a freakshow becomes a completely riveting display. I could have spent all day.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 7:00:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Now you have me intrigued. I just might have to make my way out to the left coast before Jan.14/07 to see this. Thanks for at least trying to describe it for us, which you did manage to do well as far as I am concerned.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 7:41:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Balb: I'm glad it's going to be here another three months, because I have to go back. Once was definitely not enough.

Tim: If you do manage to make it out here, e-mail me and let me know when you're arriving. We can go for a beer or coffee.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

I'll take ya up on that offer. I have some time off work around the new year. I'll let ya know.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006 9:38:00 PM  
Blogger Havril said...

I saw it a couple of weeks ago. Way cool show. Not gruesome at all.

Little known fac: CTV has used the same process of plastination on Llyod Robertson since 1987. Very life-like.

Sunday, October 22, 2006 12:37:00 PM  

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