An exhibition of plastinated human cadavers that has raised controversy elsewhere is being met with support, not protest, at its first stop east of Montreal, the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History said.
Jeff Gray, curator of visitor experiences and exhibits, said he expected some controversy over the Body Worlds RX exhibition, but has instead seen overwhelming support and interest.
"When these shows first launched in the late '90s, there was a lot of controversy and people's comfort level was lower. There was a lot more controversy when it opened at different museums," he said in an interview. "But a lot of that controversy has abated over the years."
"The interest in this exhibit is unprecedented," Gray added.
Catholic church quiet
The Roman Catholic Church, which has raised moral questions about Body Worlds exhibitions elsewhere, has chosen to stay silent about the Halifax exhibition.
"At this point in time we have no specific thoughts or comments to share about the upcoming Body World RX exhibit," Aurea Sadi, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth, said in an email last month.
The exhibition features plastinated corpses, a complex technique that removes fluids from donated bodies and replaces them with plastics that harden.
The specimens on display offer a unique — if somewhat eerie — window into the world of human biology and physiology, including organs, muscles, the nervous system and skeletal structures.
Thursday night preview
The original exhibition, launched roughly 20 years ago, was too large for a museum in Atlantic Canada to host.
The new scaled-down exhibition, the first of its kind in the region, focuses on healthy living and healthy lifestyles and uses plastinated bodies as a way to educate people about human health, Gray said.
All of the organs — of which there are many — are all real, from real people. - Jeff Gray, curator
"When you come and you see the javelin-throwing man, that was a person," he said. "All of the organs — of which there are many — are all real, from real people."
The exhibition, which opens Thursday night to passholders and runs until April 22, is open to all ages. The museum has left it to parents' discretion whether it's appropriate for young children.
"It's full bodies and nothing is covered or shied away from," Gray said. "The reproductive organs of both males and females are on view."
The exhibition is dark and dramatic, he said.
"It's all black walls — the entire gallery is black — and all the cases and specimens are lit up. It's incredibly dramatic in its presentation. It's beautiful."
The museum sold an unprecedented number of passes in the runup to Christmas, and for the first time has sold advance tickets for the exhibition, Gray said.
Admission to the museum — which includes entrance to the exhibition — is $6.30 for an adult, with discounted rates of $4.05 for children, $5.70 for seniors and $5.25 for students. Annual passes are $17.95 for an adult, or $42.50 for a family.