When watching the video lectures, I was really interested in the process of preserving flesh. I first looked to the Egyptians and mummification. The reason they preserved the body of humans and pets, is they believed that if the body were to survive so would there soul to live on in the afterlife. The process included dehydration, removal of organs (intestine, stomach, brain, etc.), cleaning, and wrapping with cloth. This ritual is one of the earliest forms of preservation, but not used as a learning purpose as it is most commonly used today.
Water is replaced by acetone and then acetone is replaced by a plastic solvent like silicon to embed the plastic within the organ (forced impregnation).
Fast forward to 1977 with the invention of plastination by Gunther von Hagens. Hagens was inspired when he worked as an anatomy assistant and wondered of using polymers on the inside of organs and muscle instead of the outside which was usually the case. Esentially, plastination is process of preserving bodies by replacing the water and fat that is naturally in them with plastic. Common polymers used today are silicon, epoxy, and polyester-copolymer. Hagens ran with the idea of plastination and created the Body’s World Exhibit which travels all around the world with different focuses such as the heart exhibit or the animal exhibit. There have been similar body exhibits such as Bodies Revealed which travels around in the US.
It was intriguing to discover that the cadavers being exhibited were real people, not statues. People who donate their body for the use of science are displayed in these exhibits in hopes that they can educate people beyond their lifetime. I found it breathtaking to actually have someone immortalized in this art form and to have the human experience celebrated with the invention of plastination. I was also interested in the different context preservation has from Egyptians to now. Egyptians wished to live in the afterlife by preserving their bodies and allowing their soul to live on. With the Body’s World exhibit, these people, whether we know their name or not, are able to live forever through inspiration and learning.