The human body is an incredible thing. We are a collection of trillions of cells, dozens of organs, and multiple systems. This biological machine will keep us going for roughly eighty to ninety years. It can’t do it on its own, however – we all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves if we want to live a long, fruitful life, and maybe even crack 100 years. That is the focus of Body Worlds and the Cycle of Life, the new Body Worlds exhibit that will be opening to the public this Saturday at the TELUS World of Science Edmonton, marking its Canadian debut.
Dr. Gunther von Hagen’s Body Worlds first debuted in Edmonton back in 2008, and quickly became our science centre’s most successful exhibit to date, drawing a record 270,000 visitors over its four month run. Body Worlds gave us an incredibly intimate look at ourselves, by displaying actual human bodies and organs which had undergone a process known as plastination. The intensive process – which takes around 1,500 hours to complete for a full body – replaces the fluids of the body with a plastic compound to preserve the body for educational purposes. The bodies are donated voluntarily through the Institute for Plastination’s body donation program. The result is an exhibition that reveals the amazing world inside of us.
The first Body Worlds exhibit was, about the “bits and pieces” according to TWoS President George Smith. It was an exhibit that showcased full bodies and organs to educate us about our insides. So, what’s different about Body Worlds & the Cycle of Life? The new exhibit is much more thematic than the original Body Worlds, with a focus on the story of human life, from embryo to old age. It is deeper than that, however, with a strong focus on how the choices we make on our health matter. If visual learning is in fact one of the most effective ways to teach, what’s better than presenting the blackened lung of a smoker to the lung of a healthier individual? The effects of obesity? Or arteriosclorsis-ridden blood vessels from the buildup of fats, proteins, and other minerals? The over 200 specimens and 20 full body plastinates on display in Cycle of Life show the consequences of poor health choices, while also showing that by caring about your body, you can live to join the exclusive club of centenarians (a few of whom are featured in the Centenntial Village section). It’s hard to find a better way to express the message of healthy living to children and adults alike.
The educational experience of Cycle of Life is bar-none. There is no better way to gain a deep understanding of ourselves and the processes that guide us through life, in an ethical and welcoming way. If the idea of viewing actual human bodies and organs irks you, don’t worry – the specimens are presented well and there’s nothing ‘gross-out’ about them. If you saw the 2008 exhibition, you’ll want to come back and experience the story of life, while also getting another chance to see numerous fascinating specimens. You won’t be disappointed.
The 14,000 square feet of Body Worlds & the Cycle of Life is housed in the new feature gallery of the TELUS World of Science Edmonton, which opened last year and most recently featured the highly successful Star Wars: Identities exhibit. The new space will allow the science centre to secure some of the world’s top travelling exhibitions in the coming years, and is an exciting component of the centre’s ambitious Vision 2020 plan, a major expansion that will establish the World of Science as one of the world’s premiere science centres. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the newly revamped environmental gallery, which is just a taste of the great things to come from.
Body Worlds & the Cycle of Life opens to the public on Saturday, May 18th at the TELUS World of Science Edmonton. As the exhibition will be very popular, it is recommended that you purchase your timed-entry tickets in advance, and you can do so here. The exhibit is open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm daily, with the final admission at 8:15 pm.
All photos by Graeme Archibald, taken with the permission of Body Worlds.