The Plastinarium, permanent home of the Body Worlds exhibition that showcases hundreds of human and animal body parts preserved through the process of plastination, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this month.
Plastination is a groundbreaking process first developed by German anatomist Gunther von Hagens in 1977. It is when all the body's liquids are removed and replaced with plastic polymers. This means that the specimen in question cannot decay, as the plastic gives the body structure and strength to stand in various poses. It is also completely odourless.
Although Body Worlds has been exhibited around the world, it has a permanent home at Von Hagen's Plastinarium in Guben, Germany. Many of the animals and humans are exhibited in their original stances, while others have been dissected, giving viewers an insight into their anatomy, as well as the process of plastination and its different preparation techniques.
Despite its innovation, Body Worlds has been involved in a considerable amount of controversy. The show has been criticised for presenting entire corpses, stripped of skin, to reveal the muscles and organs underneath, in lifelike and often theatrical positions. Others have found its exploration of the human anatomy both fascinating and educational. Grace Abrahams Crocker, who saw Body Worlds while it was touring Cape Town, told Reuters that she thought it was "important for all people, especially young people who don't necessarily understand their own bodies, to see how their bodies work and to see the different issues that can come up using different substances".
Those who visit Body Worlds also get to observe the mechanics of prostheses such as hip joints and artificial knees. It is hoped that audiences will apply what they learn and focus on leading lives that promote wellness and vitality.