BODY WORLDS: A Unique Insight into the Anatomy of Human and Animal Specimens

By Paola Perrin


Through Dr. Gunther von Hagens’ innovative techniques of Plastination, BODY WORLDS offers a new way of teaching anatomy by displaying real preserved bodies. Its travelling exhibition ‘Animal Inside Out’, currently on view in Montréal and Newcastle, explores the anatomy and physiological characteristics of more than 100 specimens, providing fresh insight into the biology of the animal kingdom.

We asked BODY WORLDS a few questions about their successful exhibitions:


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What policies do museums in different countries have about displaying dead bodies?


BW: BODY WORLDS has been on display in more than 90 cities across Europe, Asia, North America and Africa. In every presentation, each community has specific local, cultural concerns and sensitivities. BODY WORLDS relies on local museum partners to identify these concerns and we work with museum partners to provide background information or adapt the presentation to address any concerns. In our experience most organizations are at ease when they learn that the human specimens on display stem from an established body donation program and that the individual donors specifically wanted to have their bodies used to educate future generations about human anatomy through the exhibitions. They are additionally satisfied to learn that the donation program has been vetted and reviewed by third parties. Likewise, with the animal specimens, museum partners are reassured in knowing that the animals were not killed for purposes of the exhibition.

One example that is is widely referenced relates to the North American premier of BODY WORLDS. Before the presentation, a wide committee of theologians, ethicists, academics and medical experts thoroughly discussed the ethical questions and reviewed documentation on-file at the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg, Germany. Guided by the California Science Center in Los Angeles, they wrote an Ethics Review of the origins of bodies in BODY WORLDS. It can be downloaded here: (http://www.bodyworlds.com/Downloads/englisch/Exhibition/Original/EthicReport_CSC_E_190110.pdf). 

BODY WORLDS always invites museum partners to visit our Institute and review all documentation on file.



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How do you outsource bodies for your exhibitions?


BW: ‘Animal Inside Out’ is made possible by the cooperation between various university veterinary programs, zoos and animal groups. Among the animals in the exhibition are human specimens, originating from the Institute for Plastination’s body donation program. The generosity of these individual donors has made it possible to present human specimens in this and all of the BODY WORLDS exhibitions.

We do not outsource bodies for the exhibitions, however the specimens are made available as noted above.



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How do you promote the show and increase its visibility amongst museums?


BW: Our organisation is a member of ASTC (Association of Science & Technology Centers) and actively participates in museum association meetings in Europe and abroad. Museums and presenting partners often contact BODY WORLDS directly, knowledge of the exhibitions is shared by positive word of mouth. BODY WORLDS also directly reaches  out to museums to promote the exhibitions.

In 2013, ASTC recognized Dr. Gunther von Hagens for lifetime achievement and significant contributions to the public understanding of science, which increased the reputation of Dr. von Hagens and his BODY WORLDS exhibitions in the museum community.



A special thanks to Jeanette Luley for having taken the time to answer our questions. Photography Copyright: Institute for Plastination, 69126 Heidelberg/Germany. http://www.animalinsideout.com/