If you had a biology course in school, you probably remember pages of line drawings attempting to show the inner workings of a human body. Now you can actually see organs, blood vessels, muscles, and more in an exhibit called Our Body: The Universe Within.
My husband Larry and I visited this educational exhibit at The Stark Center on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin last Thursday. Beginning in late 2006, the exhibit has appeared in museums in cities across the U. S. including Orlando, Detroit, Tallahassee, Hot Springs, Mobile, Wichita, and others. It will be in Austin through late September 2010.
Using about 200 donated specimens, including whole bodies and specific organs, the exhibit gives you a close look at the complexity of human physiology. In fact, this is the closest the general public can get to viewing what only medical personnel and scientists see—and you’ll come away with a better understanding of what makes us tick.
For the few people who may think using actual human body parts is in poor taste, let me assure you that the fascination factor outweighs any imagined grossness. The bodies are preserved through a process called polymer impregnation, in which the bodies’ water and fat are replaced with reactive plastics. The specimens are vivid and detailed; bones, muscles, other anatomical parts are labeled with their correct names (which you may recognize but not remember), and the emphasis throughout is on making lifestyle choices for better health.
One of the most interesting exhibits showed an entire body dissected in ½ inch increments for an incredible look at how everything under the skin fits together. Specific rooms are devoted to the musculoskeletal system, head and nervous system, urinary and reproductive system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, and respiratory system. High-magnification images of healthy and diseased skin, organ, and cell samples allow visitors to understand medical conditions in a whole new way. Photos are not allowed, but you can get a good idea of what is presented at www.starkcenter.org
Our Body: The Universe Within is a traveling science exhibit developed by the Anatomical Sciences and Technologies Foundation LTD, a non-profit organization based in Hong Kong. The specimens, all donated, were provided by various accredited Chinese universities, medical institutions, and research centers interested in promoting educational and medical research of the human body.
Plan to spend about two hours viewing exhibits, which also show how anatomical knowledge developed through history (surprisingly accurate even in the B.C. years but not widely accepted). Children should be accompanied by a parent or teacher who can guide them through this educational tour.
For more information, visit www.starkcenter.org or call 512-471-4800.
Adults: $21.00; seniors $16.00; Children 4-12 $11.00
M-Th: 10-6; F/Sat 10-9; Sun 12-6
On weekends, tickets are issued for 15-minute increments; weekdays are open visitation.