By Leland Kim
ALA MOANA (KHNL) -- A controversial exhibition showcasing preserved human bodies heads to Hawaii.
It's traveled the world and more than eight million people have seen it. "Bodies ... The Exhibition" is an incredible lesson in anatomy and makes its way to Hawaii next month, but it's not without controversy.
The exhibition is unique in that it showcases actual human bodies. While it gives people a real-life anatomy lesson, some wonder where the bodies came from and how they became part of the show.
"My favorite part was when you got to see the inside of the brain," said a young person who attended the exhibition. "If it wasn't for the bones and all the joints and the brain, you wouldn't be able to move the body."
It's an eye-catching, heart-pumping show. "Bodies ... The Exhibition" has dazzled audiences around the world over. Now, it's headed to Hawaii.
"Basically, it's an anatomy lesson for the lay public," said Roy Glover, Ph.D., a former anatomy and cell biology professor at the University of Michigan, and the chief medical director of Premier Exhibitions, Inc., the company that presents the exhibition. "People will learn a great deal about their body in nine galleries."
Organizers say this is an opportunity for people to learn about themselves.
"These are real bodies and that's the beauty of the exhibition," said Dr. Glover. "It's a life-supporting exhibition. It helps people to understand how their bodies work. So while they're alive and caring for their bodies, they can do it in a proper way."
These bodies are preserved through the infusion of liquid silicone into the tissue. That's why the muscles and organs remain intact.
"They're dry, they're odorless," said Dr. Glover. "They can be colored; they can be posed. They can be dissected in a way that allows people to see even the minutest amount of details."
"I thought that it would be actually pretty boring," said another young spectator. "Then I became really interested, and I started seeing all the bodies, the hearts. I was really interested."
But these models are not without controversy. They're unclaimed bodies from China. So, these people did not explicitly donate their bodies to science or art.
"These bodies are unclaimed," said Dr. Glover. "By that I mean, when these individuals passed away, there were no family to claim the body."
The company is very confident in the Chinese medical school that provided the bodies.
"They're prepared there and then we are allowed to use them for our exhibition," said Dr. Glover. "We do not own the bodies. We are the caretakers of the bodies while they're in our possession. It's our responsibility to make sure they're used for an education purpose display respectfully."
It could be a sensitive topic in a place like Hawaii where respect for dead ancestors is important, but organizers aren't worried.
"Over 450,000 school children have come to the exhibition and been excited and enthused about learning there," said Dr. Glover. "It's been universally positive and that's been very rewarding to me because anatomy is my passion."
A passion and an educational opportunity for visitors, and maybe even organizers.
The exhibition will take up 10,000 square feet at Ala Moana Center off of Kapiolani Boulevard, just diamond head of Nordstrom. Mall representatives say they're excited to bring this popular exhibition to Hawaii.
"What I think they'll walk away with is knowing a little bit more about your body, educated," said Matt Derby, a public relations representative for General Growth, the company that manages Ala Moana Shopping Center. "And also it leaves you with a sense of wanting to live a little bit healthier life, because your body is your machine, and the better you treat your machine, the better its longevity, its health, and everything that goes along with it."
If you're interested you're encouraged to buy tickets ahead of time. Tickets go on sale starting Friday. The exhibition goes from June 14 through January 2009.
Prices are as follows: Adults - $26, Seniors - $24, Children - $18, and Student/Military with Valid ID - $19.