Remember “Bodies: The Exhibition”? The exhibit at Museum of Idaho in 2011 stripped the human form down and let us see what we all have going on under our skin, capturing the minds and imaginations of museum patrons across the world. Now, the people behind “Body Worlds,” the originators of the techniques the exhibitions use to preserve their specimen, have created a new exhibit that focuses on the animal kingdom, and that exhibit is coming to Idaho Falls.
The exhibit, “Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out,” opens at the Museum of Idaho on June 18.
“‘Animal Inside Out’ is an exhibit that we’ve been excited for for a long time,” museum spokesperson Jeff Carr told EastIdahoNews.com. “You get to come in and see actual bodies and body parts stripped away where you can see the muscles, circulatory systems and all sorts of different internal systems that are in the body in a way that you don’t get to see unless you’re an anatomy student.”
Carr said “Animal Inside Out” is similar to the “Bodies” exhibit. However, this time the focus is on animals. The exhibit features everything from dogs, cats and horses to more exotic creatures, like giraffes and sharks.
“Animal anatomy is so much more diverse than ours,” said Carr. “You get to see, in this exhibit, bodies that can do things we humans can’t do. You get to see up close the actual bodies and body parts that allow a frog to drink water through their skin or allow birds to fly or animal to change colors.”
The bodies in “Animal Inside Out” are preserved through a process called plastination. Developed by physician, scientist and inventor Dr. Gunter von Hagens, plastination preserves bodies and body parts through a process that involves removing the water, fats and other fluids from the specimens and replacing them with a liquid polymer.
It is a time-consuming process. Plastination of an entire body generally takes up to a year. Click here for more information.
The process produces specimens that are odorless, durable and highly useful as educational tools for both scientists and the general public. The process also removes the distance and disconnection from the specimens.
“I remember the first time I held a human heart in my hand that had been plastinatized,” said museum Director of Exhibits Rod Hanson. “It’s pretty remarkable because it feels a little like a dog toy but, by the same token, it’s not uncomfortable as holding real tissue and having to deal with the formaldehyde.”
Removing the discomfort and distance between the specimens and museum visitors helps to create a unique educational experience that almost anyone can benefit from.
“Some of these specimens are so foreign,” Hanson said. “Just to be able to show someone just how much heart a giraffe has to have to generate that much blood flow to the brain is remarkable.”
Idaho Falls will be the smallest city thus far to host “Animal Inside Out,” but Hanson said that’s not all that unusual for the Museum of Idaho. He credits the museum’s staff and supporters with enabling them to bring such a broad range of exhibits and atypical experiences to the area.
“We’ve been very fortunate given the support we have from our patrons, our donors and our sponsors,” Hanson said. “We’ve premiered a number of exhibits, some for the first time in the United States and some for the first time ever. It’s one of those things that a lot of people take for granted here at the Museum of Idaho, that we’re able to bring in some of these larger exhibits, but it’s because we’re willing to take some risks and because we have great support.”
“Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out” opens at the Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls on June 18. Visit the museum’s website for more information.