Museums, Dinosaurs & Plastination?

Posted: July 19, 2012 in LOndon, Nature, Social
Tags: , , , ,

Arriving at the Natural History Museum’s entrance always ignites the ‘butterflies’ in my stomach. I revert to memories of heading straight to the dinosaurs, before dragging myself away to see the latest exhibition I came for.

The latest excuse for my journey was Gunther von Hagen and his ‘BODY WORKS’ team, who use plastination to dissect various animals to highlight what organs, bones & ligaments allow animals to swim, fly, leap etc.

The exhibition varies from a stunning Indian elephant to a small 10cm frog. Some are in pure skeletal form others like a huge squid receive the ‘Damien Hirst’ treatment, and are cleanly sliced through exposing the organs and mechanisms that allows it draw in excess water through its gills, before expelling it to allow projection at speed to hunt or escape danger. There are too many animals to describe them all, so I have covered a few personal highlights.

We are immediately presented with an 8-10ft shark, its bright red nerves & fibres echoing the crimson of its various victims during its lifetime. It’s huge liver lies underneath, formally representing up to 40% of its living body weight. The cold glare of its eyes seem to follow you, with its jagged teeth still on show. There is still the unnerving feeling of being watched

The section dedicated to mammals is what will gain the greatest attention with an adult giraffe and gorilla on show. A combination of skin and fatty tissue removed to showcase the inner complexities of the animals. The giant Indian elephant in particular is the ‘show stopper’.

(I wasn’t able to sneak a picture of this)

In addition to the elephants dissection, the reconstruction purposefully provides amplified space through the fastenings to allow a greater view deeper into the animal. A brain previously belonging to the animal lies next to it (the same weight as an average baby), with its nerve endings on show. The scale of the mammal itself is something, but revealing its inner ‘mechanisms’ provides a greater appreciation.

The only possible criticism is the lack of narration. Other than a couple of sentences upon entry there is little explanation why the animals have been put on show or further insight into the plastination process. However, anyone with a keen interest in nature should take the time to go and visit (there is always a T-Rex in the next hall if it’s not for you).


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