‘Bodies’ is a popular destination for school groups. PHOTO BY DONNA TAYLOR
Awe-inspiring, conversation-provoking ‘Bodies’
By Melissa Lowrie
I was asked recently to drive on a field trip for my daughter’s eighth grade class. Their life science class went to Atlanta to see “Bodies: The Exhibition,” and I got to tag along.
What started as a temporary exhibition at Atlantic Station has become a permanent fixture. “Bodies” is a collection of, well, bodies … in various forms.
The exhibition is both an enlightening and educational experience. Through painstakingly preserved bodies, visitors get a look inside the systems of the body: skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, digestive, urinary, reproductive and circulatory.
Through a process called polymer preservation, full and partial specimens are preserved using liquid silicone rubber. Essentially, this process stops decay and preserves the specimens from here to eternity. According to the website, www.premierexhibitions.com, medical schools are still using specimens preserved in the ’70s.
The website describes the process for the non medical types: “Anatomists fix a specimen with chemicals to temporarily halt the decaying process. They then dissect it to expose important structures. All of the water is removed from the specimen by replacing it with acetone. The specimen is placed into a liquid silicone mixture within a vacuum chamber. Under vacuum, the acetone becomes a gas that is completely replaced by the polymer mixture. Lastly, the silicone polymer is hardened. The end result is a dry, odorless, permanently preserved specimen containing no toxic chemicals. It retains the look of the original, but functions as if it were rubber. Preparation time varies. A small organ may take only a week, while a full-body specimen may take up to one year to prepare.”
There is no photography allowed in the exhibit, but, if you are considering going, check out the photo gallery on the website: www.premierexhibitions.com, so you’ll know what to expect. The last thing I dissected was a frog in high school, and, while it was interesting (and smelled like formaldehyde), this is more like a college-level anatomy class (I’d guess … I was a marketing major).
That said, the middle school kids I went with were plenty mature to handle what they saw. We also had two teachers and a handful of adults on hand if questions came up.
Teachable moments are plentiful throughout. A lung blackened by cigarette smoking sits near a healthy lung. Next to that, a clear box where those who currently smoke were invited to trash their packs of cigarettes. The rather large box was about half full when we went through.
There are more than 200 human bodies and specimens in the exhibition — all the organs and systems a visitor might care to see. One of the most talked-about parts of the visit, at least in my car driving back, was the fetuses. They are tucked discreetly away from the rest of the exhibition, out of sight for those not comfortable viewing. The fetuses are shown in various stages of development. Without heading into theological territory, I’ll just say it was awe-inspiring and shouldn’t be missed.
It didn’t take too long to go through the exhibition … it’s rather like any other museum, wandering at your own pace. There are plenty of shops and restaurants at Atlantic Station, if you’d care to stay awhile. As for a critique from the eighth grader: “It was cool.” High praise.
Ticket prices are: Adult $24 (online $22); Children (5 - 11) $16 (online $14); Senior (over 65) $22 (online $20). Audio guides are available, as are group rates. “Bodies” Atlanta is in the Premier Exhibition Center at Atlantic Station, 265 18th Street.
This is a learning outing, for sure, and is liable to spur conversation — a good thing. If you can’t make it to “Bodies” with your Canoe Kids, find another adventure. Wherever you end up, have a great time.