Thursday, January 22, 2009

Body Worlds Comes to Florida

After its run in Salt Lake City, Utah, the highly successful Body Worlds 3 is making its debut today at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, Florida. While this is the first exhibit of the popular Body Worlds franchise by Dr. Gunther von Hagens to appear in the state, it is not the first cadaver exhibit.

MOSI made international news back in 2005 when it played host to the debut of a similar such (though not connected with the popular franchise) exhibition, titled Bodies: The Exhibition. In fact, MOSI took the unusual step of proceeding with the exhibit, despite the State Anatomical Board voting against approving the exhibit and then-State Attorney General, Charlie Crist's recommendations that they abide by the ruling. The exhibit went forward and proved to be wildly popular. That particular exhibit is still a magnet for controversy to this day with several top officials concluding that the bodies in the exhibit may have come from prisons in China, including those tortured and/or executed, and never consented to their bodies being used in the exhibit post-mortem.

Though having faced similar accusations in the past, the Body Worlds franchise is insistent that all of the corpses on display are from donors who agreed for their remains to undergo von Hagens's so-called plastination preservation techniques and be displayed as part of the exhibits. In fact, a commission set up by the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California confirmed these claims in 2004, following an extensive review of the death certificates and body donation forms. To date, over 9,000 people have donated their bodies to von Hagens's Institute for Plastination in Germany.

In March 2007, State Senator Victor Crist introduced a bill that revised an existing "body snatching" law to legally allow for these types of exhibitions in the state, provided that an accredited museum provided proper notification of an intended transportation and/or exhibit in advance. It ultimately died in the hands of the Committee on Governmental Operations.

Regardless, Body Worlds 3 (the photo shown above is from the 2007 exhibit in Portland, Oregon), dubbed "The Story of the Heart," debuts today at MOSI - ultimately bringing the original human bodies preserved by plastination exhibit to Florida. While not without its critics or controversy, the exhibit is widely hailed as a valuable educational tool on human anatomy. To date, the Body Worlds exhibits have boasted around 26 million guests worldwide.

Read up on Body Worlds 3 on Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

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