You shouldn't be grossed out by the cadavers and bones on display at the new Bodies: The Exhibition, which has already taken over the first floor of the former West End Marketplace, now known as 603 Munger St. The bodies are years -- and multiple treatments -- removed from natural death. They look like plastic.
We recommend you pick up an audio tour at the entrance -- that way you don't have to read all those educational placards. Plus, the tour comes in two versions: one for children, another for adults. Obviously, we punched in the code for the children's version first.
"Did you know that your bones are alive?" says a cheerful female voice. We stared at the three bones inside a glass case. "It's true. Not alive like those skeletons you see walking around in scary movies."
Enough already. How would the adult version compare? "Bone is a complex and dynamic living tissue that is constantly remodeling itself," says an erudite-sounding man. Being an adult can be so boring.
The bones inside the first glass case were an adult tibia, a scapula and an enlarged specimen labeled "Osteogenic Sarcoma of Femur." Bone cancer, right? We scanned the placard rather than wait for the audio tour to explain: "Bone is constantly remodeling itself, but in the case of osteogenic sarcoma, bone cells grow out of control."
Dr. Roy Glover, medical director of Premier Exhibitions, is responsible for compiling all these factoids in a fun and easy way for the general population to understand.
"We try to make the information as visitor friendly as it possibly can be," said Glover, standing in front of an adult male specimen that had been sliced vertically in five sections. He had a publicist with him. We had a few questions for the doc, chief among 'em: Where do you get the bodies?
Two public relations women appeared instantly. We were now surrounded. See, Bodies: The Exhibition and Body Worlds, which stopped off for a visit to Fair Park in 2007, have been banned in some countries that remain fearful -- or convinced -- that these companies and their myriad knock-offs are displaying the bodies of Chinese prisoners who never gave their consent.
"The bodies come from China," said Glover.
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The PR women inched closer and busied themselves on their cell phones.
"The best anatomical dissectors in the world live and work there," he continued. Of course, this was not the first time Glover, who taught anatomy at the University of Michigan medical school for 35 years, has had to field this question. Glover realizes that this exhibit will always be found controversial by some people. "I don't consider it controversial," he said, "but I see that there's some creative tension that goes along with it.
As in: Some will be suspicious of any practice originated in China, period. Others may disapprove of the display of cadavers. However, as unclaimed cadavers in the U.S. often end up in medical schools, these likewise landed in Chinese medical schools, Glover said. The bodies, he told Unfair Park, are "obtained legally" through a partnership with the chairman of Dalian Medical University in China.
"This is a life-giving exhibition," he said. "It's not about death. It's about what we can learn from this gift and use that information to improve the quality of our own lives."