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'Animal Inside Out' Exhibit Opens at Museum of Science and Industry

By Sam Cholke | March 14, 2013 1:52pm

HYDE PARK — First it was "Body Worlds," a groundbreaking exhibit of real bodies preserved for display through a process called plastination.

Now, opening Thursday at the Museum of Science and Industry , comes "Animal Inside Out," a "Body Worlds"-styled exhibit featuring an inside look at preserved animals.

Visitors can peek inside a camel’s hump, trace the dense network of capillaries in a horse’s head and see the tensed muscles of a running giraffe.

Anatomists striped off layers of skin and fat of mammals and humans to show the inner workings of the body in life size for the exhibit, which runs through Sept. 2

“I think it’s interesting and I liked a whole bunch of things because I’ve seen the humans before,” said Liam Bannon, 13, visiting with his family from Windsor, Ontario. “I really liked the big bull back there.”

Surrounded by skinless reindeer and sheep, a more than 2,000-pound bull crouches in the gallery, it’s hide removed to show sheaths of powerful muscles.

“When you imagine them as corpses on display with the skin stripped off, that is an image that comes from Hollywood,” said curator Dr. Angelina Whalley. “The vast majority of people I think really approve of it and see an artistic value in it.”

Whalley’s husband, Dr. Gunther von Hagens, invented the process of preserving the specimens in 1977. His plastinated humans — an exhibit called "Body Worlds" — came to the Museum of Science and Industry in 2005 and 2007, attracting more than 1.3 million visitors.

Tens of millions of people around the world have seen the "Body Worlds" exhibit. It was even featured in a chase scene in the 2006 James Bond movie "Casino Royale."

To make the latest specimens showing muscles and organs, the animals are preserved and dissected, and then dipped a series of vats of chemical bath for more than a year to replace the water in each cell with a polymer.

Once the specimen comes out of the last vat, it is molded into the correct pose while still pliable. Once dry, the animal’s muscles feel like an unsettling combination of flesh and plastic.

“They are extremely durable,” Whalley said. “Some of these animals may be extinct in several years and scientists will always have these specimens.”

Whalley and the museum are still negotiating with customs to bring in several additional specimens of endangered animals, including an Asian elephant and a gorilla.

Tickets for just the exhibit are $27 for adults and $18 for children. Guests must choose a specified entry time for the exhibit and the museum will offer extended hours over the spring and summer to accommodate guests.