THE Amazing HUMAN BODY
Amid controversy and protests, Bodies ... the Exhibition opens Saturday at Ala Moana Center. Hailed by many teachers as educational, it has inspired some who have seen it to live healthier
By Brandon Bosworth
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When animals in the wild come across the corpse of a member of their own species, they sometimes will become transfixed by the mortal remains, staring at the dead body for long periods, even for hours. This tendency seems particularly common in some of the higher primates, such as chimps, bonobos, gorillas ... and human beings.
Any question about the last animal on the list? If so, consider the success of “Bodies ... the Exhibition,” coming to Honolulu June 14 at Ala Moana Center.
For the unfamiliar,“Bodies ...” is a traveling exhibit of just that.Real human corpses are dissected and preserved in a process called plastination. They are then posed in a variety of situations, such as playing sports or just hanging out with their fellow dead compatriots. Crowds flock to the exhibits, breaking attendance records in many venues. The corporation behind “Bodies ... ,” Premier Exhibitions, reports that more than 3.5 million people have viewed the exhibition thus far.
What is the point of the exhibit? According to “Bodies ...” spokesman and chief medical director Dr.Roy Glover,it’s all about education.Glover tells MidWeek that his main goal is to help “people get in touch with their own bodies and their health ... and to realize the human body is a wondrous, complex organism and precious possession.“In particular, he hopes the exhibition will force attendees to take a hard look at their own lifestyles. This is especially true for smokers.
“There are a number of specimens showing organ damage from smoking including cancer and emphysema, he says.“Glover hopes once people see firsthand what unhealthy habits do to the body, “they will make a renewed commitment to stop smoking and become more aware of the importance of diet and exercise.”
Cheryl Muré, director of education for “Bodies ...,“agrees that the main purpose of the exhibit is learning about the human body. Speaking from Prague, Czech Republic, she says in a phone interview that teachers in particular appreciate the exhibition. “We’ve had tremendous feedback from teachers,“she explains.“They think it’s an excellent exhibit for students to see.” Muré goes on to say there will be a special free preview of the Honolulu show just for teachers Aug. 27. Registration information is still pending.
Not all in the education establishment are enthusiastic about the show. Cincinnati’s Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk barred the city’s Catholic schools from taking students to the exhibition,and St.Louis Diocese Archbishop Raymond Burke urged Catholic students not to attend. Field trips to “Bodies ...” are banned in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Muré insists such a reaction is rare, noting that more than 350,000 children have attended the exhibition, and she points out there is even a special audio tour designed for kids.
Of course, it isn’t all about education. Premier Exhibitions is a for-profit,publicly traded company that makes a great deal of money from its shows,which include “Bodies ...” as well as a successful show dealing with the Titanic. According to Forbes.com, Premier Exhibitions has more than $50 million in assets. In a fiscal year-end earning release conference call held May 7 of this year, CFO Bud Ingalls reported, “Revenue for the fourth quarter was $17.2 million in fiscal 2008 compared to $10 million the previous year. This represents an increase of 72 percent primarily driven by the addition of more “Bodies"exhibitions. During the quarter, we had 19 “Bodies” exhibitions that were either running or completed during the quarter, compared to seven in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007.
For the quarter, ‘Bodies’ contributed approximately $15.2 million ... of our revenue.”
Contrary to the experiences of public school teachers, education can indeed be profitable, especially if there are corpses involved.
The corpses themselves are a major source of contention.Leaving aside the moral issue of displaying dead human beings for profit, there are serious concerns about the
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