Up-Close Exhibit Focuses on Human Body


(Sunday, April 15, 2007 8:34 AM EDT)

Did you know that human bone is five times stronger than steel, or that every human spent half an hour as a single cell?

You'll learn these facts and countless others at “Bodies: The Exhibition,” which is showing at the Rosslyn Dome (part of the former Newseum site) from April 14 through October 28.

“You will look at yourself in a way you never though possible,” said Dr. Roy Glover, chief medical adviser for the exhibition, during a recent tour. “You are looking at yourself through another body.”

The exhibit has nine galleries covering different parts of the human body such as the muscular, nervous, skeletal, circulatory, respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems, as well as fetal development and the treated body.

All the bodies and organs on display are real human specimens that have been preserved. They were obtained from the Dalian Medical University Plastination Laboratories in China and are all donated or unidentified bodies that have died from natural causes.

One of the most striking parts of the exhibition is the side-by-side comparison of a healthy and a diseased lung. One lung is white and the other is completely black with tar.

Smokers can throw away their cigarettes in a clear box in the gallery, if they are moved to do so. The box is usually full by the time the exhibition's run is over.

“People leave their cigarettes here and make life-changing decisions to stop [smoking],” Glover said.

An interesting feature of the exhibit is a display of an entire body's skin. Be warned that it might give you the “heebie-jeebies.”

Another must-see is a body that shows the matrix of blood vessels under the skin. The vessels undergo “corrosion casting,” which means they are injected with a colored polymer that hardens in the vessels' shape. The surrounding tissues are then removed to expose the vessels.

Audio tours are available for adults and children, explaining everything in the exhibit.

Although visitors cannot touch the bodies in the galleries, they have a chance to handle real organs at an interactive desk at the end of the exhibit. Visitors also can sign up to be full-body or organ donors.

Although Bodies: The Exhibition does not explicitly tell people to live healthy lifestyles, the hope is that visitors will learn from what they see and will adopt healthy habits, Glover said.

“Most people take better care of their car than themselves. I change my oil every 3,000 miles and I can replace the engine if I have to,” Glover said. “You only get one body. It's your most precious possession.”

Tickets are $26.50 for adults, $21 for seniors and $18 for children age four to 12. See the Web site www.BodiesTicket.com to purchase tickets online, or call (888) BODIES-9 to purchase them over the phone. For more information on the exhibition, visit the Web site at www.bodiestheexhibition.com

All the bodies in the exhibition are real. They were preserved by a medical laboratory in China.

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