The human specimen

Bodies on display
There is some uncertainty about what to do with the dead. Should we anoint them, embalm them, bury them, preserve them in vaults, or burn them up and keep their ashes on the shelf? Recently people have started doing some disturbing new things with dead bodies—turning ashes into jewelry, or freezing bodies for a day when they can be cloned.

Stranger still is the option recently on display in major museums around the world: turning dead bodies into art. Body Worlds: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies is an exhibit of over 200 “authentic human specimens” preserved through a process called plastination, developed by the German physician Gunther von Hagens. The exhibit, now on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry after stops in Japan and Europe (a concurrent exhibit is in Los Angeles), is a partly educational, partly artistic and partly religious experience.


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