Body Worlds is a unique, and now permanent, exhibition located in Piccadilly Circus, London. Brainchild of Dr Gunther von Hagens, the exhibition uses real plastinated bodies to teach the public about what makes us human – from conception to death, and all that happens in between.
On entering the exhibition, visitors are given a headset which provides audio descriptions of exclusive exhibits. The first section of the museum is concerned with the brain and nervous system – progressing onto other body systems and functions as visitors advance through a series of specially designed rooms.
Whilst many museums use models to imitate the human form, the unique selling point of Body Worlds is its use of real human bodies preserved through plastination. This is a technique by which the body’s water and fat stores are replaced by plastics, meaning they are free from odour and suitable for use as anatomy models.
Throughout the exhibition, exhibits range from single organs to whole bodies, the latter of which can be unusual to experience if visitors haven’t been exposed to such material before.
The exhibition does have some emotionally challenging displays, such as plastinates of a childbearing woman, and foetuses from 1-24 weeks gestation. Whilst these can initially be upsetting, they provide visitors with a unique education about early human development. The rooms dedicated to sex and relationships reveal how deeply intertwined the physical and emotional systems are within human existence.
Much of the latter part of the exhibition focuses on the demographics of diseases prominent in the Western world today. Displays of organs from donors with illnesses from lung cancer to hypertension show the reality of the damage these conditions can cause. The displays bring current public health concerns closer to home, and encourage visitors to reflect upon their own lifestyle choices.
Every exhibit within Body Worlds is accessible even to those with a very limited knowledge of anatomy and physiology. The museum provides a user-friendly learning experience to people of all ages, with a range of static and interactive exhibits.
Body Worlds is open 365 days a year and will be remaining in Piccadilly Circus for the foreseeable future. For the public, it provides a unique insight into the workings of the human body; an encounter unlikely to be experienced elsewhere.
All bodies used in Body Worlds were voluntarily donated for scientific use.