Atrium Mall: the bodies hit the floor

By Melanie Erspamer
Published: December 2010

Four years ago, the Boston Science Museum hosted a BODY WORLDS exhibit, a presentation that displayed preserved bodies and organs. Now, the Atrium Mall is hosting a branch of the exhibit, with 13 whole human bodies and over 100 human specimens on display. A self-guided tour, which costs 16 dollars per student, generally takes 40 minutes to complete.
People come face to face with human bodies and organs, preserved through the method of plastination, a technique that suspends the decomposition of the human body by extricating the bodily fluids inside the body and substituting them with reactive plastics.
The human bodies inside the display seem startlingly alive, apart from the fact that they have no skin. Their eyes also seem capable of sight, creating an eerie effect.
The bodies, however, are arranged and named creatively. All the bodies have tags underneath them with a description of who they are: there is the Thinker, whose brain is emphasized, the Muscle Man, who has noticeable biceps, triceps and abdominals, and the Orator, whose speaking muscles are emphasized.
Some of the specimens displayed imitate famous statues as well. For example, one body is in the position of the Discus Thrower, the famous Greek statue by Myron.
As the exhibit continues, different organs appear. There is a brain with a stroke, fetuses from different periods of the mothers’ pregnancy, and the heart, all protected by a glass case.
The main purpose of the exhibit is to show the negative effects on the body of different lifestyle choices, such as smoking or over-consumption of alcohol.
At one point in the tour, a healthy lung is compared with a smoker’s lung; at another, a healthy liver is compared to that of an alcoholic. “It is amazing how we can live in our bodies every day, yet not know so much about what goes on inside them, freshman Courtney Foster said.
According to the BODY WORLDS organization, only people who donated their bodies to scientific research would ever be used for such displays.
Some say, however, that it is disrespectful to display the human body as such a spectacle. This debate has brought up some controversy over the years, especially among religious groups.
“I don’t see anything wrong with showing dead bodies, unless they are a threat to health in some way, freshman Maria Dorfman said.
Despite the opposition, the BODY WORLDS continues to move across America, stopping at various locations and museums, with thousands flocking to see the exhibits. Open until March 31, the display at the Atrium Mall is likely to draw similar crowds.

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