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Human beings, it seems, have always been interested in their innards. We view human interiors with a mixture of horror and fascination. Now technology (and some offbeat personalities) has made it possible for many people to see other honest-to-goodness human bodies with the hood wide open.

In the early days of anatomical drawings, bodies were often shown smiling, cavorting, and peeling off their skins with coy looks on their faces (as if removing mere clothes). Later anatomical drawings got much more serious, and displays of cadavers became downright grave. Now a fellow by the name of Gunther von Haagen Hagen has come full circle by presenting real preserved cadavers posed in situations natural to bizzare.

Mr. von Haagen’s Hagen’s exhibits, called BodyWorlds, have certainly attracted attention. One skinless man observes his own removed skin. A dissected corpse goes up for a slam-dunk. And a human riding on a dead horse holds his own brain in one hand and that of the horse in the other. All of this is made possible by a new preservation technique called plastination that preserves tissue perfectly and in living color.

Many condemn BodyWorlds and its creator as irreverent and sensational. Others praise him for making such fascinating and educational displays. Gorgeous or ghoulish, the exhibits draw record crowds. Check it out for yourself, but be forewarned— this is not for the faint-of-heart.

BodyWorlds web site (includes a calendar of events— when will BodyWorlds come to your town?)
Dream Anatomy exhibit by the National Library of Medicine