Monday, July 21, 2008

Body Plastination sensation

We visited the Body Worlds 2 exhibit at the Maryland Science Center when we were in Baltimore on Saturday. The exhibit is made up of many bodies and body parts that have been subjected to plastination, a process that leaves the bodies looking very realistic but preserved. This one focused on the brain as an underlying theme, but explored all parts of the body and plastinated corpses in various poses.

I snuck a picture even though there were signs saying no photography permitted. The had scared people so much in the exhibit that even the other patrons were warning me I could lose my camera. I must have missed a more full speech about camera confiscation at the entrance.

I should have taken a picture of the look of horror combined with fascination that was on our faces during the tour of the entire exhibit. It was very interesting to see the body parts and the exploded anatomical displays. Many of the veins, arteries and nerves were colored differently for easier understanding, some bodies had the skin left on in strips to be artistic, but you couldn't forget that these used to be people, and I am not a big autopsy, dissection or corpse fan myself.

The room showing the stages of human development in the womb was especially interesting even as it was vaguely unsettling. Even though I had seen pictures in books it is amazing when you see the real thing and how tiny a fetus is in the early stages, yet it has all of the features of a baby at the small size. Some of these displays were soft tissue in formalin some were pregnant woman who had died while pregnant (apparently) and were plastinated.

Wikipedia lists the steps of plastination. First the body is embalmed with formaldehyde as a regular burial might be, then the body is dehydrated by soaking all of the tissues in acetone, the acetone is boiled out by reducing the pressure which sucks the polymer in during the impregnation step, then comes hardening or curing step and finally posing. The bodies in the display were posed in all types of ways, the one seated as above was the mildest. There were upside down skateboarders and yoga practitioners, an ice skating couple and a baseball player in mid-swing.

I recommend the exhibit.

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