A visceral experience: “Body Worlds & the Brain” at OMSI, Portland, OR

Yesterday I headed to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, sans wife and child, to see the exhibit Body Worlds & the Brain (which opened on October 20th for a limited engagement). From Gunther von Hagens, the exhibit “includes more than 200 authentic human specimens and highlights neuroscience, brain development and performance. Through respectful, aesthetic displays, this all-new exhibition invites intensive study and profound reflection on the power, beauty, and fragility of the human body” (more info). The displays are shown along with large text panels discussing many aspects of being human, from anatomy and development to intelligence  and emotions.

I have always wanted to see one of these exhibits of plastinated cadavers, as I have heard from other people about what they liked about it or did not. Given that the bodies are obtained from individuals knowingly providing themselves for these artistic and didactic displays, there is not much I can complain about (much effort is made in getting this point across in the exhibit). Body Worlds is simply wondrous. My initial impression is amazement, but I am sure over the next few weeks I will think about certain aspects of the exhibit (I should see if the Portland libraries have this book: The Anatomy of Body Worlds: Critical Essays on the Plastinated Cadavers of Gunther von Hagens).

One text panel had the following words, which I think sums up such an endeavor: “The creative process generates the new by seeing the known in an unusual way. It is founded on a sense of wonder and fed by the ability to pursue an idea simply to satisfy our curiosity.” A truly visceral experience. I highly encourage folks in the Portland region to visit OMSI and peruse Body Worlds, especially the dynamic poses of many of the bodies and the various organs shown in stages of disease. How often does one get the opportunity to get so close and personal to what is – and could be – inside all of us?

Enjoy the photos, which I was given permission to take and post for media purposes.

Body Worlds & the Brain at OMSI (November 6, 2011)

Sagittal 3-D Slice Body (1999)

Close-up of Sagittal 3-D Slice Body (1999)

The Angel (2005)

The Digestive System

Blood vessel configuration of the arm

The Ponderer (2005)

The Ponderer (2005), showing the brain and spinal column

Elegance on Ice (2005)

The Ringman (2002)

A plastinated giraffe (2008), which made me think of what a project it must be to pack and ship these exhibits around the world

Interior of Giraffe (2008)

The Yoga Lady (2005)

Skull and brain of an infant

Lungs of a smoker

Sitting Ligament Body (2008)

Expanded skull

The human brain

Blood vessel configuration of a lamb

Obesity Revealed

OMSI visitors observing The Head-Diver (2006)

Another view of Giraffe (2008)

4 thoughts on “A visceral experience: “Body Worlds & the Brain” at OMSI, Portland, OR

  1. I didn’t think pictures were allowed, but I agree with the tone of the article. I visited this exhibit a couple days ago. What an experience. The complexity of the human body is quite a sight to behold.

  2. I missed the body world exhibit when it came to portland
    I really think it would of been an experience of a life time..
    I remember as a child in the third grade going on a field
    trip to the dinosaur exhibit 87-88 ? back at the old omsi
    by the zoo.But in 10th grade high school i went on another
    field trip to omsi’s new lazer light show where you feel like
    your siting on the top of the world and the row’s of seat’s
    were very steep, that was cool.It was such a advancement
    compared to the old lazer dome on the other side of the
    river across from the zoo. I’m now 34 with a son of my own
    that between me and my wife there’s never a dull moment
    All i can say is enjoy life . and i hope that when my son
    grows up he will have good memorys as a child.

    THANKS JOHN

  3. John, perhaps OMSI will host another Body Worlds exhibit in the future, Thanks for sharing about your experiences!

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