Following attractions such as a Titanic exhibit in 2011 and “Dinosaurs Unearthed” this spring, the Putnam Museum in Davenport has scheduled another blockbuster for 2013.
The museum will announce today that “Bodies Revealed” will be on display from Saturday, March 9, through July 14.
“Bodies Revealed” will show museum visitors real anatomical specimens and teach the structure and function of the human body.
“It’s a very, very personal exhibit,” said Dr. Roy Glover, the exhibit’s medical director.
“It’s a walk through the human body, beginning with the skeleton and adding one system after another. Building upon what’s been previously seen in the experience and adding just a little bit more.”
Visitors will see preserved dead bodies in nine different galleries. It begins with the skeleton and adds the muscles, nerves, heart, blood vessels and other organs.
“By that time you’ll see all of the human systems, how they work
separately but how they work in cooperation to help the body do all the amazing things it can do,” said Glover, who joined the exhibit producers in 2004 after teaching anatomy and preservation technology at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Putnam president and CEO Kim Findlay said the timing was right for an exhibit such as “Bodies Revealed.”
“We’ve got such a national interest in health policies and what’s going to happen,” she said.
Findlay said “Bodies Revealed” should bring comparable audiences as “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit” in 2011 and “Dinosaurs Unearthed” this year. Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions, which produced “Titanic,” also created “Bodies Revealed.”
“The attendance at bodies exhibits around the world has been tremendous, huge,” she said.
The concept of real, dead bodies in an exhibit began with “Body Worlds” in Tokyo in 1995. Its first American showing was in Los Angeles in 2004, before a seven-month display in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
The bodies in the exhibit, Glover said, were donated to medical schools.
“The medical school is then legally responsible for them. We partner with these medical schools,” he said in a phone interview from Ann Arbor, Mich.
“They help to dissect and preserve the bodies and allow us as a company doing educational exhibits to use them for the purpose of educating our public. The bodies in our exhibit don’t belong to our company. There’s no way legally that we could buy bodies. We basically work with partners to lease them.”
Premier has the responsibility for the bodies.
“We are obligated to use them for an educational purpose to display them in as dignified and respectful way as we can, so people ... can learn as much about them as possible,” Glover said. “And hopefully, once they learn that, to learn all that they can to take better care of them(selves).”
Separate from the bodies will be a table where a brain and other organs are available to touch and pick up. There also are exhibits showing the effects of smoking, comparing a healthy and an unhealthy lung.
In the exhibit, Findlay said, “you kind of come face to face with the truth that you cannot do any other way.”
The bodies are preserved with a polymer.
“It’s a silicone that’s a liquid that looks like water. It’s clear and is very thin, not very viscous,” Glover said. “Under a vacuum we pull the silicone into the tissue, and once it’s in, we can harden it so the specimens become siliconized. They’re dry; they’re odorless. They can be handled.”
Accusations against Premier and other companies with bodies exhibits have occurred through recent years.
“All of those charges have found to have been false. There is no substance to them,” Glover said. “But for some reason people like to emphasize the sensational and overlook the fact that a company like ours, that has been in business for many, many years doing educationally rich exhibits, would never curate an exhibit with bodies that we felt were obtained illegally or unethically.”
Findlay said the third big display is already “becoming a wonderful tradition.”
“Thanks to the response of the people in their region and their support and interest for coming to these blockbuster exhibits, we’re able to continue to provide them,” Findlay said.
“It’s a privilege to bring this type of high-quality, impactful exhibit to the Quad-Cities when a couple of years ago it was something we weren’t able to do,” she added.