A visceral experience: “Body Worlds & the Brain” at OMSI, Portland, OR

Yesterday I headed to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, sans wife and child, to see the exhibit Body Worlds & the Brain (which opened on October 20th for a limited engagement). From Gunther von Hagens, the exhibit “includes more than 200 authentic human specimens and highlights neuroscience, brain development and performance. Through respectful, aesthetic displays, this all-new exhibition invites intensive study and profound reflection on the power, beauty, and fragility of the human body” (more info). The displays are shown along with large text panels discussing many aspects of being human, from anatomy and development to intelligence  and emotions.

I have always wanted to see one of these exhibits of plastinated cadavers, as I have heard from other people about what they liked about it or did not. Given that the bodies are obtained from individuals knowingly providing themselves for these artistic and didactic displays, there is not much I can complain about (much effort is made in getting this point across in the exhibit). Body Worlds is simply wondrous. My initial impression is amazement, but I am sure over the next few weeks I will think about certain aspects of the exhibit (I should see if the Portland libraries have this book: The Anatomy of Body Worlds: Critical Essays on the Plastinated Cadavers of Gunther von Hagens).

One text panel had the following words, which I think sums up such an endeavor: “The creative process generates the new by seeing the known in an unusual way. It is founded on a sense of wonder and fed by the ability to pursue an idea simply to satisfy our curiosity.” A truly visceral experience. I highly encourage folks in the Portland region to visit OMSI and peruse Body Worlds, especially the dynamic poses of many of the bodies and the various organs shown in stages of disease. How often does one get the opportunity to get so close and personal to what is – and could be – inside all of us?

Enjoy the photos, which I was given permission to take and post for media purposes (please note that these are real human bodies, not models, so view with children accordingly). My five year old son did not visit the exhibit with me, but there were plenty of young children with their parents looking at the displays.

Body Worlds & the Brain at OMSI (November 6, 2011)

Sagittal 3-D Slice Body (1999)

Close-up of Sagittal 3-D Slice Body (1999)

The Angel (2005)

The Digestive System

Blood vessel configuration of the arm

The Ponderer (2005)

The Ponderer (2005), showing the brain and spinal column

Elegance on Ice (2005)

The Ringman (2002)

A plastinated giraffe (2008), which made me think of what a project it must be to pack and ship these exhibits around the world

Interior of Giraffe (2008)

The Yoga Lady (2005)

Skull and brain of an infant

Lungs of a smoker

Sitting Ligament Body (2008)

Expanded skull

The human brain

Blood vessel configuration of a lamb

Obesity Revealed

OMSI visitors observing The Head-Diver (2006)

Another view of Giraffe (2008)

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This entry was posted in anatomy, informal science, museums, omsi, wonder. Bookmark the permalink.

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