Bodies: The New York Exhibition

After visiting the New York State Museum over Spring Break I became interested in exploring the other exhibitions within New York. Amongst the more recently erected museums is one called Bodies: The Exhibition, which is a collection that was organized and curated in order to provide an intimate and informative view into the human body. With over 200 actual human bodies and specimens that have been carefully dissected and respectfully presented within the exhibit, visitors are offered a highly dynamic and unique vision into the structures and processes as a way of celebrating the human form.

The museum’s spokesperson and Chief Medical Director is Dr. Roy Glover, a graduate from the Doctorate program in Anatomy from Ohio State University. In an episode of Oprah, Dr. Oz interviews Dr. Glover about his reason for using real body parts. Dr. Glover references the bodies that are displayed in athletic poses as he explains, “[It helps them] understand the body in a dynamic way—what muscles do, how they contract, move the limbs around, how muscles fix the skeleton so other muscles can be effective.” While Dr. Glover’s focus is directed towards the functional and medical aspects of the specimens, the efforts of the museum’s curators Dr. Angelina Whalley and her husband were aimed towards creating an emotional experience for those who come to visit.

Although the bodies and organs have been voluntarily donated by people since 1983, the curation process has only been in effect since 1995. Whalley and her husband invented what is known as the “plastination process” which is perhaps the only reason the use of real human parts became a feasible concept. As a whole, the exhibition (as implied by the website) is separated into the systems of the body. Individual exhibits portray the structures and functions employed by the skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, digestive, urinary, reproductive, and circulatory systems in some ways that expose their specific use and others that represent their purposes in conjunction with other systems.

The newest, most popular exhibit explores the treated body and is called the “Pulse” exhibit. Amongst the things displayed include (but are by no means limited to) a heart that has suffered a heart attack, a spleen that has been enlarged due to leukemia, and a smoker’s lung and brain that had suffered a stroke. Out of the two articles I found that paid specific attention to this section of the exhibition it seemed as though the bodies and organs displayed were organized by disease.

However, Dr. Glover, Dr. Whalley and her husband’s efforts in this section of the experience sought to achieve far more than shock value. Rather, they aimed to expose the inescapable effects that disease, environment and lifestyle choices have on a person’s health.  With this new addition, the experience of the Bodies Exhibition in New York is not only a celebration of the human form, but also a lesson on how to keep the celebration going strong.




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