See Real Bodies on Display at Bodies: The Exhibition

Lisa Fritscher September 23, 2011 No Comments

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Bodies: The Exhibition in Las Vegas

Bodies: The Exhibition was amazing

When I was a kid, I wanted to become a surgeon. I was fascinated by the human body, and wanted to understand how it all worked. Meanwhile, Dad’s childhood goal was research science. He wanted to someday explain the inner workings of the body on a molecular level. So it was only natural that we were excited to see Bodies: The Exhibition. Yet we were also skeptical. We knew the exhibit was the subject of controversy. Were the bodies handled respectfully? Would this turn out to be a sort of gruesome roadside attraction? Was this really something appropriate for children? When we were in Las Vegas, we had the opportunity to answer these questions.

About Bodies: The Exhibition

Luxor Hotel and Casino Las Vegas

Bodies is on the second floor of the Luxor

Bodies: The Exhibition debuted in August 2005 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida. A traveling exhibit has toured the world ever since, while permanent versions are housed in cities as diverse as New York, New York and Idaho Falls, Idaho. Like all variations, the Las Vegas exhibit holds more than 200 actual human specimens from tiny blood vessels to entirely reconstructed bodies.

Bodies: The Exhibition is on the second floor of the Luxor Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. As of 2011, admission is $32 for adults, $30 for seniors over age 65 and military members, $29 for local residents and $24 for children aged 4-12. Kids under age 4 are free. Audio tours are an additional $6, and specialized kids’ audio guides are available. Discounts and coupons are abundant, so check the free coupon guides before paying full price. The exhibit is fully wheelchair-accessible. Bodies is open daily from 10-10, with the last admission at 9pm. Photography is strictly forbidden inside. Food, beverages and strollers are not permitted.

Our Experience

Audio Tours for Children Luxor Las Vegas

Specialized audio tours are available for children

We arrived late on a weekday afternoon. There were several other visitors, but the exhibit was not crowded at all. As we entered the exhibit, our jaws literally dropped. Each gallery focused on a specific part of the body such as blood vessels, bones or muscles. Glass cases held individual body parts, such as the bones of the arm. Full bodies, carefully dissected to highlight specific muscle groups or organs, were posed in different positions such as shooting a basket.

Many displays focused on the disease process. One of the most graphic dealt with the lungs. A healthy lung sat alongside a lung diseased by emphysema. Next to the display was a disposal bin for cigarette packs. Not surprisingly, the clear bin was at least half full.

We were both fascinated and repulsed by the fetus gallery. A series of fetuses at different stages of development sat in glass jars. According to the signage, the fetuses were all the victims of natural miscarriages. It was interesting to see the development process, but a bit disturbing to realize what we were seeing. The fetus gallery is hidden behind partial walls and clearly marked by signs, making it easy to bypass if desired.

We were particularly struck by how sensitively the displays were handled. The bodies are preserved through a process called polymer preservation or plastination. Developed in the 1970s, the process replaces the natural water and fat in body tissue with acetone and special plastics. This creates a dry, smooth texture that not only protects the tissues from decay, but adds to the scientific feel of the exhibit. There is no decay, blood or other gruesome material.

We spent nearly two hours examining the various specimens. If you take a more casual approach, you could finish the exhibit in approximately an hour.

Tips for Parents

Bodies The Exhibition Entrance

The Bodies entrance sets the stage for what is to follow

The study of the human body is crucial to any child’s education. Historically, this study has been based on plastic models and photographs. While these tools are certainly sufficient for a basic understanding of the human systems, they do not account for individual differences. One of the most amazing things about Bodies: The Exhibition is the sheer number of real-world bodies. Short, tall, fat, thin, muscular, healthy, diseased…the exhibit does a fantastic job of showing how similar and yet how different humans can be.

This is not the place to drop off the kids for a few hours while you do something else. Although the kids we saw at the exhibit were fascinated, they were also full of questions. Guide your children through the displays and help them understand what they are seeing and how it relates to their own bodies. The kids’ audio tour is a wonderful starting point.

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Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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