This week, a truly remarkable exhibit opened at the S.C. State Museum
that explores the miraculous capabilities and destructive pitfalls of the human body in an extraordinary way: by using authentic human bodies to explore the body’s systems in detail and to educate the public about their own health.
BODY WORLDS Vital
is the latest installment of Dr. Gunther von Hagens’ Human Saga project. Dr. Hagens developed a process called “plastination” in the 1970s, which allows human tissue to be preserved perfectly by replacing their fats and fluids with resins and polymers.
I know that to some it might sound a little macabre or even disrespectful to display real human bodies in a museum. It’s important to know that the bodies used in the show were obtained through a donation program set up in the 1980s by Dr. Hagen. The people who donated their bodies were committed to educating people about their health and well being, and the exhibit has been created with a wonderful sense of reverence and awe for the miracle of the human body.
BODY WORLDS Vital seeks to evoke that sense of awe in us, the viewers, and by doing so persuade us to take better care of ourselves. The bodies in the show are posed in feats of great athleticism, showing us the immense potential that lies within each of us.
At the same time, preserved organs show us the results of our bad habits. Everyone needs to see the juxtaposition of a non-smoker’s healthy lungs beside the hard, blackened lungs of a lifetime smoker. The message is clearer than that in any anti-smoking campaign and is driven home by the fact that this is not an artist’s rendition. The humanity of the donors behind the specimens drives home the show’s message that we need to cherish and protect our amazingly intricate, powerful, and yet delicate bodies by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
BODY WORLDS Vital will run now through April 15 at the S.C. State Museum. Admission is $11 for adults, $9 for senior citizens and $7 for ages 3-12, in addition to general museum admission.
Obviously, the bodies on display are “anatomically correct” and viewing the authentic human specimens requires sensitivity, so parents planning on attending the exhibit with their children should prepare them for what they will see there. The museum recommends BODY WORLDS Vital for kids in grades 5 and higher, and the museum also asks that those younger than 17 be accompanied by a responsible adult.
For more information and to purchase tickets, click here