BODY WORLDS: Frequently Asked Questions

What is BODY WORLDS?

BODY WORLDS, is the first exhibition of its kind to inform visitors about anatomy, physiology, and health by viewing real human bodies. The specimens on display were preserved through Plastination, the preservation process invented by Dr. von Hagens in 1977, while he was working as an anatomist at the University of Heidelberg.

Since the beginning of the exhibition series in Japan in 1995 more than 44 million visitors in more than 115 cities in Europe, America, Africa and Asia have seen the exhibition making it the world's most successful traveling exhibition.

What does BODY WORLDS show?

Each BODY WORLDS exhibition contains real human specimens, including full-body plastinates as well as individual organs, organ configurations, and transparent body slices. The spectacular plastinates in the exhibition take visitors on an exciting journey of discovery under the skin. It provides a comprehensive insight into the anatomy and physiology of the human body. In addition to organ functions, common diseases are described in an easily understood manner by comparing healthy and affected organs. They show the long-term impact of diseases and addictions, such as tobacco or alcohol consumption, and demonstrate the mechanics of artificial knee and hip joints.

All BODY WORLDS exhibitions generally present different plastinates, which is most evident in the whole-body plastinates which vary in pose and display.

What is the goal of the exhibition?

BODY WORLDS aims to educate the public about the inner workings of the human body and show the ef­fects of poor health, good health, and lifestyle choices. It is also presented in the hopes that it will motivate visitors to learn more about the science of anatomy and physiology.

Who should see BODY WORLDS?

Anyone interested in learning what makes us human. Adults of all ages and children will find the exhibits fascinating. Given the nature of the BODY WORLDS exhibits, it is up to parents, guardians, or educators to decide whether BODY WORLDS is appropriate for the children in their care. 

Is this exhibition appropriate for children?

The California Science Center welcomes both adults and children to BODY WORLDS. However, this exhibit may not be suitable for some children, and the Science Center has determined that a responsible adult must accompany all children 12 years old and younger. We ask that you become familiar with the exhibit before deciding whether or not to bring your child to BODY WORLDS, and have prepared a Parent Guide which you may access from our website to assist you.

Where else will BODY WORLDS be on display next?

There are ten BODY WORLDS exhibitions, including ANIMAL INSIDE OUT, which have been viewed by more than 44 million people through­out the world. BODY WORLDS exhibitions have been displayed in Europe, America, Africa and Asia. Additional BODY WORLDS exhibitions are planned. If you would like to know in what cities the exhibitions will be on display next, please go to our official web site, www.bodyworlds.com, where you will find an overview of current and future exhibition venues. If you are interested in additional information about BODY WORLDS current exhibitions and more, you may join our Facebook community.

Why is it important for the public to see these exhibitions?

The organizers of BODY WORLDS believe that when people understand more about how the body works and how it can break down, they are more likely to choose healthy and sustainable lifestyles. They also hope it will inspire visitors to learn more about the life sciences. Knowledge about what the human body looks like and how it functions is basic life science information that should be available to everyone.

Would I be able to learn just as much from books or models of the human anatomy?

The use of authentic specimens allows a penetrating examination and study of disease, physiology, and anatomy that cannot be found in models, textbooks, or photos. In addition, the exhibition allows visitors to under­stand that each and every body has its own unique features, even on the inside. The experience in cities around the world has clearly demonstrated that real specimens fascinate exhibit visitors in a way that models cannot.

Are there animals in the BODY WORLDS exhibitions, as well?

Some BODY WORLDS exhibitions have a few animal specimens on display. Due to the great popularity of the animal plastinates, Dr. Gunther von Hagens and Dr. Angelina Whalley were encouraged to create the new exhibition BODY WORLDS of Animals which now tours the world under the title ANIMAL INSIDE OUT. The display features the most popular species in the animal kingdom. Better than any textbook, this fascinating exhibition shows the complex, amazing biology of the natural world’s most remarkable creatures and their nervous system, bones, muscles, and organs.

ANIMAL INSIDE OUT reveals unique curiosities about animals like never before.   Visitors will learn how a giraffe uses its 20 inch long bluish tongue like a hand. ANIMAL INSIDE OUT’s educational approach is particularly suitable for young visitors. For more information: www.AnimalInsideOut.com.

What is Plastination?

Plastination is a unique process invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977 to preserve specimens for medical educa­tion. The process replaces bodily fluids and fat in specimens with fluid plastics that harden after vacuum-forced impregnation. After the bodies are shaped into lifelike poses, they are hardened with gas, heat, or light. The plastinates show how our bodies move in everyday life, as well as during athletic activities. For more information about Plastination, go to www.bodyworlds.com.

Where did the specimens on display come from?

Will we know who the plastinates are or how they died?

The BODY WORLDS exhibitions rely on the generosity of body donors; individuals who requested that, upon their death, their bodies could be used for educational purposes in the exhibition. All the whole-body plastinates and the majority of the specimens are from these body donors; only some organs, fetuses and specific specimens that show unusual conditions come from old anatomical collections and morphological institutes. As agreed upon by the body donors, their identities and causes of death are not disclosed. The exhibition focuses on the na­ture of our bodies, not on personal information. Currently there are more than 16,000 donors registered in the body donation program of the Institute for Plastination. For more information please visit the body donation section of www.bodyworlds.com.

Why are the plastinates posed the way they are?

The poses of the plastinates have been carefully thought out and serve educational aims. Each plastinate is posed to illustrate different anatomical features. For instance, the athletic poses illustrate the use of muscle systems while playing sports. The poses are chosen to highlight specific anatomical features and allow the visitor to relate the plastinate to his or her own body.

Have the ethical questions concerning this exhibition been addressed?

Before the North American premiere of BODY WORLDS, a wide committee of theologians, ethicists, academics, and medical experts thoroughly discussed the ethical questions. Guided by the California Science Center in Los Angeles, they wrote an Ethics Review of the origins of bodies in BODY WORLDS. It can be downloaded from our website www.bodyworlds.com.

What educational materials are provided?

Teachers will wish to prepare both their students and their adult supervisors carefully for their BODY WORLDS experience. Educator materials are available upon request for download on the website www.bodyworlds.com. BODY WORLDS offers preview opportunities so that teachers can see the exhibition free of charge before bringing their classes to it.

Will I be able to touch any of the plastinates?

While you will be able to get very close to the plastinates, as a rule, visitors are not allowed to touch them.

Is there an audio tour?

In some exhibitions Audio Guides are offered for an additional fee. The audio tour is designed for to enhance the exhibition content and to provided added insight to the specimens on display.  The guide is available in English and in Spanish or French in select markets. Personally guided tours through the exhibit are unavailable.

How long can you stay inside the exhibits?

Within the opening hours you can stay as long as you like. We recommend allowing about one to two hours. The length of time will vary on how long each visitor wishes to examine each specimen and read the information provided. An audio tour will add to your time in the exhibit. Re-entry is not allowed, once you exit.

Can you take photographs or film in the exhibitions?

Professional photography and filming in the exhibition is limited to registered members of the media, for editorial purposes only. Some locations allow photography with small handheld devices for personal, non-commercial use. Please check with the location you are visiting to confirm that photography is allowed. Out of respect to other visitors and the body donors, photography may be restricted at any time.