Experiencing Body Worlds: Voyeurism, Education, or Enlightenment?
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Until the advent of plastinated cadavers, few outside the medical professions have had firsthand experience with human corpses. Such opportunities are now available at the Body Worlds exhibits of Gunther von Hagens. After an overview of these exhibits, we explore visitor responses as revealed in comment books available upon exiting the exhibit. Cultural, philosophical, and religious issues raised in the comments serve as a microcosm of society at large. The conclusion considers the challenge of such exhibits in introducing the public to science education, notes the image of the body as machine—so prevalent in the West—reflected in visitor comments, and finds hope that the exhibits promote, for many visitors, a sense of community among all humankind.
KeywordsAnatomy art Body Worlds Evolution and design Gunther von Hagens Plastination Science education Science exhibitions
We thank Dr. Gunther von Hagens and Gail Hamburg of Body Worlds for expediting our examination of comments from each of the exhibits at which visitor books were collected and permission to use them in this article. We also thank Yidong Bai, Ph.D., for his translation of the Chinese comments from Singapore.
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