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'Body Worlds: Animals Inside Out' at The Milwaukee County Zoo

There are many animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo you wouldn't normally see in the wilds of Wisconsin.  Camels, for example, or bonobos or giraffes. But an exhibit there on display through Labor Day allows visitors to see those animals and many others in a unique way.

Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out” uses a technique called Plastination to highlight animals' various anatomical structures. The technique allows us to see a duck's circulatory system, say, or a cross section of a horse's head.  It halts decomposition by extracting the bodily fluids and replaces them through vacuum-forced impregnation with reactive polymers, such as silicone rubber. The specimens are then cured using light, heat or gases to ensure they are solid and lasting.

The inventor of Plastination, Doctor Gunther von Hagens, first developed it to show the details of human anatomy, and the human version of Body Worlds has visited Milwaukee a couple of times in the past decade. This is the first time the other species Body Worlds exhibit has come here, though.

The Body Worlds curator, Dr. Angelina Whalley, says she hopes that when people see the multitude of animals in this exhibit, humans can recognize that they have much in common with animals.

Credit Image courtesy of Body Worlds
Image courtesy of Body Worlds

"While you walk through the exhibit, you will recognize that all these animals have very much in common with our anatomy.  Because that’s no wonder, we have all the same needs to survive - we are all flesh and blood," she says.

Whalley hopes that when visitors gain a better understanding of animal anatomy, they'll also find they have a greater understanding of the evolution of living organisms, a deeper appreciation "that we are part of a big wonderful thing. That we are nature ourselves and nature is very very fragile."

She also notes that these exhibits show the animals in a dynamic and beautiful way that can often evoke an emotional response. "These are very strong and unique pictures," Whalley says. "And we humans, we tend to be fascinated most by things we have never seen before, and that is one reason why this exhibit is so well perceived."

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.