Q: What is Body Worlds?
A: Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds are first-of-their-kind exhibitions through which visitors learn about anatomy, physiology and health by viewing real human bodies. This is made possible by a process called Plastination, a groundbreaking method for specimen preservation invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977. The specimens on display stem from his body donation program established in 1983.
Q: How is Body Worlds Vital different from other Body Worlds exhibitions?
A: There are seven Body Worlds exhibitions touring the world currently. Each has a specific focus. The exhibition we're bringing to Anchorage -- Body Worlds Vital – is the newest. It debuted in 2010. It focuses on the long-term impact of diseases, the effects of tobacco use, and the mechanics of artificial body parts such as knees and hips.
Q: What is the purpose of the exhibition?
A: Body Worlds Vital aims to educate the public about the inner workings of the human body and show the effects of healthy and unhealthy lifestyle choices. We hope it also stimulates curiosity about the science of anatomy.
Q: Why is the Anchorage Museum bringing this exhibition to Alaska?
A: As an art, history and science museum, our goal is always to ignite a passion for these disciplines. Knowledge about what the human body looks like and how it functions is basic life science information that should be available to everyone. We believe this health-focused exhibit has an added benefit for the community: When people understand more about how the body works and how it can break down, they may be more likely to choose healthy lifestyles.
Q: Couldn't I learn just as much from books or models of human anatomy?
A: Real human bodies show the details of disease and anatomy that can't be shown with models. They also allow us to understand how each body has its own unique features, even on the inside. Visitors are drawn to real specimens in a way that they are not to plastic models. One of the special features of museums and science centers is that they offer people a chance to see the real thing in a safe, respectful and learning environment.
Q: What is Plastination?
A: Invented by scientist and anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens, M.D., in 1977, Plastination is the groundbreaking method of halting decomposition and preserving anatomical specimens for scientific and medical education. Plastination is the process of extracting all bodily fluids and soluble fat from specimens, replacing them through vacuum forced impregnation with reactive resins and elastomers, and then curing them with light, heat or certain gases, which give the specimens rigidity and permanence.
Q: Where did the specimens on display come from? Will we know who they were or how they died?
A: Body Worlds exhibitions rely on the generosity of body donors, individuals who designated that upon their death their bodies could be used for educational purposes in the exhibition. All of the full-body plastinates and the majority of the specimens are from these body donors. Some specific specimens that show unusual conditions come from other anatomical collections and morphological institutes. Out of respect for confidentiality and as agreed upon by the body donors, their identities and causes of death are not provided. The exhibition focuses on the nature of our bodies, not on providing personal information.
Q: Why are the plastinates posed the way they are?
A: The poses of the plastinates have been carefully thought out and serve educational aims. Each plastinate is posed to illustrate different anatomical features. For instance, the athletic poses illustrate the use of muscle systems while playing sports. The poses allow the visitor to relate the plastinate to his or her own body.
Q: Are these exhibitions appropriate for children?
A: The Anchorage Museum is recommending the exhibition for children in grades 5 and above. We recommend that parents and guardians or school staff research the exhibition and use their discretion to decide whether the exhibition is appropriate for their children. Some things parents may want to consider: This exhibit includes whole bodies, individual organs and transparent body slices. On whole bodies, reproductive organs and eyes remain. Most bodies are without skin so you can see the bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and organs. A family guide with helpful tips for visiting with children will be available at the exhibition entrance.
Q: Can I tak photographs or film in the exhibition?
A: Photography and filming, including pictures taken with cell phones, are not allowed in Body Worlds except by accredited members of the media. We thank you for your understanding and apologize for any inconvenience.
For more information about Body Worlds, visit www.bodyworlds.com.