"The dead bodies are back?" my son asked, when I mentioned my morning plans included checking out the new Body Worlds exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
The new show, called "Body Worlds & The Cycle Of Life" is different from the Body Worlds exhibit that premiered six years ago – this time visitors see the body throughout the human life cycle from embryo to end of life.
It opens tomorrow, Feb. 7, and will run through June 14.
"Body Worlds & The Cycle Of Life" features more than 200 plastinates (er, dead bodies), which are real human specimens preserved through a process called plastination invented by physician and anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens.
Visitors have the chance to see what it looks like under the skin and get up close and personal with organs and body parts that are both healthy and unhealthy. I found the 30-foot digestive system and nervous system on display particularly interesting.
Although the show will undoubtedly have visitors reflect on mortality, life choices and the inevitability of aging, there is just enough whimsy and vivaciousness to keep it from getting too dark.
For example, one of the palatinates is doing a skateboard trick and two others are wearing ice skates.
Plus, the wall quotes are particularly uplifting, including, "Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old," by Franz Kafka, and Abe Lincoln’s wise words, "In the end, it’s not the years of your life that count, it’s the life in your years."
The amount of available information, especially for younger exhibit goers, is abundant. It’s a fascinating lesson on anatomy, biology and the human life cycle. (There is also a surprise ending with non-human plastinates, as well.)
There are nine Body Worlds exhibitions, which have been viewed by 40 million people throughout the world. Additional Body Worlds exhibitions are planned for the future.
During my sneak peek today, I had the chance to interview Dr. Angelina Whalley, the conceptual planner and creative designer of Body Worlds, as well as the wife of von Hagens.
I asked her if she believed Body Worlds exhibits made visitors more or less anxious about dying. Without hesitation, she answered my question.
"The exhibition is all about life. It is all about you. While walking through, you might be reminded that there is no eternity – people get reflective while looking at this – but I do believe people leave inspired," she said.
I also asked her if the exhibit was appropriate for children.
"Absolutely. It is suitable for anyone 12 years old or older but also for younger children who are curious," she said. "It provides the chance for the entire family to have a meaningful experience and discussions."
The cost, which includes admission to the rest of the museum, is $25 for adults ($17 for members), $22 for teens and students with IDs ($15 for members) and $18 for kids 3-12 ($13 for members.) Go here for tickets.
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