New 'Body Worlds' exhibit and its cadavers coming to St. Paul in January

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 27, 2012 - 10:59 AM

A new version of "Body Worlds," the anatomical exhibit with real human cadavers that drew a record-setting number of patrons to St. Paul in 2006, is coming to the Science Museum of Minnesota.

"Body Worlds and the Cycle of Life" is scheduled to open Jan. 18 and will show visitors how the body changes over time through all of life's stages, the museum announced Tuesday.

The 14,000-square-foot exhibit, seen around the world so far by 35 million people, includes more than 200 human specimens -- 20 of them full-body cadavers -- that help explain various anatomical processes such as disease and maintaining good health.

"Visitors of all ages are going to find that this new presentation . . . provides one of those authentic experiences, showing the human body in all stages of life in ways they will never forget," Mike Day, senior vice president at the Science Museum, said in a statement announcing the exhibit's stop in St. Paul.

Specifically, patrons will see individual organs and systems, as well as full-body preserved cadavers in various poses, such as a skateboarder, a baseball player, a ballet dancer, ice skaters, and a woman in a yoga pose.

Tickets went on sale Tuesday at www.smm.org, 651-221-9444 and at the museum box office. Admission is $27 for adults and $19 for children ages 4 to 12 and seniors. The exhibit runs through May 5, 2013.

"Body Worlds: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies" opened at the museum in May 2006 and drew 750,000 visitors during its seven-month run, making it the most-attended exhibit in the museum's nearly 23 years at its current location on W. Kellogg Boulevard.

"Not a week goes by where someone doesn't ask us when 'Body Worlds' is coming back, so we expect it will be hugely popular," said museum spokeswoman Kim Ramsden. "On average, in markets where 'Body Worlds' has returned with a new exhibition, it draws about half as many visitors as the first time."

The "Body Worlds" concept was designed by Dr. Angelina Whalley and uses a preservation process called "plastination," which was invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens.

The process replaces the natural fluids in the specimen with liquid plastics that are hardened and cured. Before hardening the plastic, the specimens are fixed into lifelike poses, revealing how bodies internally respond to movements and activities.

The specimens on display, excluding a small number of acquisitions from anatomical collections and anatomy programs, are drawn from a donation program that von Hagens began in 1983.

While tens of millions of people have flocked to the cadaver exhibits, some human rights activists have attacked them as grotesque freak shows that may be using the bodies of mentally ill people and executed prisoners.

When such concerns were raised before the Science Museum opened " Body Worlds" in 2006, museum officials dispatched an attorney to check the death certificates against the documentation that showed the bodies were voluntarily donated.

In 2008, members of Congress tried to prohibit importing "plastinated human remains." The bill, co-sponsored by Minnesota Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline, died in committee.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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