Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Body Worlds Exhibit - Scared Straight?

By Sara Matuk
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I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Body Worlds Exhibit yesterday at the Milwaukee Public Museum. I thought I knew what to expect - I certainly had fair warning from others who have seen it. Still, the reaction I had was unexpected.

I thought I'd like it. I thought I was science-orientated enough to look at the exhibits objectively. I thought I might learn something (I've been considering going back to school for some sort of science degree). No amount of discussing it prepared me for my reactions.

Body Worlds was AMAZING. I felt so much awe by what I saw. The real surprise was that for as amazed as I was, I was equally nauseated. Yes, it's science and I did learn something. But I found myself thinking about so many other human things, like, "did these people know exactly what was going to happen to their bodies when they donated them?" "How did this person die?" "Was that fetus aborted or miscarried?"

In some cases the cause of death was quite evident. My sister died of lung cancer (metastasized cervical cancer), and I got to see an example of this up close. The nausea-factor rose. I saw a shrunken kidney just like the one my sister-in-law has. I can bet my mom's liver looks like the emphysema liver with the ribcage imprint (the excess air in the lungs causes the lungs to press the liver into the ribcage).

We got to hold the healthy and sick livers. I was reminded of the turkey liver I cooked and ate, except these were 100 times or so bigger. My husband mentioned beef jerky occasionally. He described his feelings "we are all just meat."

Many exhibits were artistically stunning. The show was worth seeing for more reasons than I would have guessed. I would see another Body Worlds exhibit if I have the opportunity, but next time I'd use the recording. I have a feeling a lot of questions would have been answered if I had listened to the tape.

I would not bring my young children to Body Worlds. There were high school field trips there, and I believe that was appropriate. I also wondered if this exhibit has ever knocked some sense into "wayward" kids who choose to smoke. If I ever think my children are smoking, I'll bring them to the first Body Worlds exhibit I can find. I won't even tell them why-- I'll just see if the visuals are enough to influence their usually intelligent brains. My son, especially, is a very visual learner.

A couple extra pointers- don't eat a bunch of mini wieners right before you attend. Don't plan to do lunch immediately following the exhibit tour. Enjoy!

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