The dissected corpses of the “Körperwelten” or “body world” exhibit, will soon reach their final resting place of Heidelberg, where they will remain on display permanently. Around 200 exhibits of skinless corpses will be shown in an old indoor swimming pool in the Baden-Württemberg town from Thursday.
The anatomical pieces have already toured around the world, most recently they were on display in Berlin, but the exhibition has also taken place in the U.S, France, the Czech Republic and the UK.
Creator of the exhibit and inventor of the “plastination” process Gunther von Hagens calls the museum a “long-harboured wish” and says “we want to show visitors the wonderful complexity of the human body true to life.”
The term “plastination” refers to the process of conserving bodies by removing water and fats and replacing them with plastics. The method means the bodies can be touched and do not smell or decay.
Described as a modern-day Dr Frankenstein, Von Hagens developed his conservation method in Heidelberg in 1977. Since then, more than 44 million people have seen his 'Corpse-project' in exhibitions worldwide. The “Undead” have also appeared in the James Bond Film 'Casino Royale'.
Von Hagens displays around 150 individual dissections of body parts such as organs, but also 20 full-body “Plastinates”, some of which are set in unusual positions. In one corner of the exhibition, two footballers stand frozen amid a scuffle and von Hagens' Berlin exhibition even featured a pair of corpses having sex.
Visitors to the museum can look at dissected lungs and hearts or measure their blood pressure. From some Plastinates they can learn about systems like the adrenal glands, which are where stress hormones are formed.
Gunther von Hagens in front of one of his exhibits. Photo: DPA
Angelina Whalley, who curates the exhibition in Heidelberg for her husband, Dr. von Hagens, thinks that criticism comes mostly from people who haven't seen “Body World”.
“The show is civilised and dignified”, says the 57-year-old. “I don't see how the dignity of the objects or of the observer is supposed to be violated here”.
It isn't about gratifying possible sensationalism but rather educating people about anatomy and health, she argues.