Saturday, September 24, 2005

I See Dead People...

The wife and I just got home from Tampa, where we visited the Museum of Science and Industry. They are currently displaying the "Bodies" exhibit.

You may have heard about this exhibit. It is a collection of actual human cadavers that have been specially treated with a "cellular polymerization process", in various stages of dissection and in poses that portray real life activities, and arranged to display the various major systems of the human body.

There was some controversy surrounding this exhibit shortly before it opened in Tampa. The Florida Anatomical Board held hearings as to whether the exhibit was appropriate. The Florida Anatomical Board regulates the disposition and treatment of cadavers in the state of Florida, regardless of their origin.

These cadavers came from China, and there was some concern about whether the cadavers were obtained legally, and whether the creators of the display actually had obtained permission from the families of the deceased for the cadavers to be used in this way.

The Florida Anatomical Board decided not to allow the Exhibit to be displayed.

MOSI ignored the ruling and opened it anyway.

I enjoyed it, and the wife was absolutely riveted. It was truly amazing, and I learned a lot, but I must admit that it left me with a somewhat uneasy feeling.

I could not shake the thought that, as interesting as this exhibit was, these were actual human beings. They were people. They were born, were cute babies, were loved by their parents, grew up and most likely had children of their own. They got hungry, got thirsty, got their hearts broken by someone when they were sixteen. They hated their jobs, they loved their jobs.

And now, they are standing naked in an exhibition hall in the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry, with their skin peeled off, and the muscles which used to move their arm when they brushed their teeth cut loose from their arm bone, and plasticized so that it sticks up in the air for hundreds of people a day to look at.


Another thing that bothered me about it was that the cadavers, in addition to being naked, were, for lack of a better description, anatomically correct. The most crowded portion of the whole exhibit was the section on the Reproductive System, and they left nothing to the imagination. (Which was absolutely the right way to do that, given the context of the display. I understand that this exhibit was created in the interest of education, and anatomy is what was on display.)

I just couldn't help but think about how the former occupants of those bodies would feel about having their business out there on display in front of God and everybody like that.

This is an extremely popular exhibit. It was very crowded (to the point of being annoying,) and there were a lot of very young children there. I heard, (and admittedly MADE) several inapropriate comments, which would have horrified me, had someone made a comment like that about MY private anatomical details, however pitiful or impressive they may be.

I am sure that they would have had an opinion about that as well.

The most disturbing portion was the "Fetal Development" section. They displayed human fetuses, each in their own little glass case, at various stages of development. At twelve weeks, the human fetus is a tiny little person, with little fingers and toes, eyes, nose, and mouth, and the fetus that was on display was sucking it's thumb. I can't imagine that anyone who has seen this exhibit could support the practice of interrupting the development of that little person, for any reason.

Overall, it was a very interesting and enjoyable event, and if the "Bodies" exhibit comes to a town near you, I heartily recomend that you check it out.

Just consider yourself warned, up front, by Tug.

It will make you think, and some of the thoughts it inspires will make you uncomfortable.


rich bachelor said...

Listen to what anonymous says! Anonymous smart! Why you hate Anonymous?
Anyway, when I was an exhibit design prep here at the local museum a few years ago, we had a show about ancient Egypt.
Along with lots of mummy cases and funerary inscriptions, an actual several ton sarcophagus we had to move with a damn crane, etc., we also had a real live(?) mummy.
No one who saw it could quite believe what they were looking at. When the kids from the grade schools would come around, they'd ask me: was it real?
Depending on the kid, I would sometimes say, "No, that's beef jerky man..."
Truth is, this mummified corpse had been purchased by an optometrist in Chicago, some time in the 1880's, and now it had become the property of this museum in Germany who had wanted to put their stuff on the road while they remodeled.
I stood there and looked at it a lot. Not a lot to say about what I thought: he really did look like beef jerky, but I've never been one to fool myself about what happens to one when one becomes old enough or sick enough (or injured enough).
When I got the job there in the first place, it was a show from the tombs of ancient China. There was a full-body burial suit made of jade.
Even the kids knew what they were looking at when they saw the little cylinder off to the side: the item one places up the deceased's rectum to stop leakage.
When I was asked this question by schoolchildren, I'd generally say, "Well, whaddyou think it is?", and one time, the Chinese curators were present, and explained it as being a "good luck charm".
I wonder to this day what they meant by that.

rich bachelor said...

Damn. Hey folks, there was originally a spam posting from some anonymous source above my comment, which is why I indulged in that Incredible Hulk thing at the top, because that's what it sounded like:
"Why Army hate Hulk? Hulk Good!"

RebelAngel said...

It sounds like a perfectly gruesome exhibit. I'm not sure I'd want to see that! Some things are just better left a mystery, for me. :)

tugboatcapn said...

That was funny, Bachelor.

I like the "Beef Jerky Man" reference, too.
Good stuff, man.

It's good to know that our inner 14 year olds are alive and well...

Sometimes I delete the spammers, sometimes I make fun of them. Maybe I will just start leaving all of them up so we all can laugh at them...

Mark said...

How do you delete a comment without leaving a thing that says "this comment has been removed by the asministrator?"

tugboatcapn said...

There is a little box on the delete screen that says "Remove forever? (It can't be undone)".
Click that box and the deleted comment disapears just like it was never there.