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Bodies: On Display

Myth of the Human Body Exhibit 2

Image by Our Awesome Planet via Flickr

I attended a conference in Atlanta, Georgia last fall, and having an open afternoon, walked around the Georgia Tech area  where I found two exhibits that interested me.

One was a Blind Simulation, called Dialogue in the Dark:

http://dialogtickets.com/ which allowed us to explore a pitch dark museum with a cane to experience life as a visually impaired person.

I joined in with a group of six Mormon missionary guys on their day off from their work. We had a perfectly delightful, though frustrating time as we experienced the terror of crossing a busy intersection, ordering at a lunch counter, lining up for a speed boat ride, and bumping into bushes in a city park.

All of us came out of the exhibit on a first name basis but stressed to the limit with a new appreciation of what blind people experience every day.

I learned that when I am unable to see, I raise my head and aim my face toward the sounds I hear…something I observe in visually impaired people all the time.

Then we went next door to a controversial exhibit called: BODIES

Not knowing what to expect, I admit to feeling a mixture of confusion and astonishment as I spent much of my time wondering if these were indeed real bodies posed in routine positions: Throwing a ball, running, jumping.

There were bodies of people of all ages.

It eventually became clear that they were real bodies, preserved in a technique that allowed us to see the layers of skin, muscles, organs, blood vessels…

For me, a nurse, I was thinking purely of science as I peered between layers of muscles to better understand the source of my own foot and back pain.

I have seen one autopsy in my life, and here I was, experiencing a ‘autopsy like museum’ .

It was like a course in anatomy, but I wondered, ‘where did these real bodies come from, were they unclaimed from off the streets’?

Later, as I read critics of this exhibit, I learned that these were bodies of people from the PRC, and there was much controversy.

It is highly offensive to many religions if their dead are not buried immediately, and leads to fear that the spirits of the displaced bodies might linger and even haunt the area..

I imagine this exhibit is intended “for the greater good”, and I learned a lot, but, I’m not so sure it’s ethical to put bodies on display like that.

I wondered if these people knew their bodies would end up in a walk through museum in a large city full of tourists?

What do you think about this?


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