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Our Body The Universe Within at ECHO April to September 2012


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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

AT ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, we recognize the importance and responsibility of hosting the world-class exhibit, Our Body: The Universe Within.

We hope you find the list of questions and answers below helpful as you learn more about this fascinating, artful and highly scientific exhibit at ECHO April 14 through September 3.

Q: Who organized and produced Our Body: The Universe Within?

A: Our Body: The Universe Within is a traveling science exhibit on human anatomy produced by Studio 2 Promotions. The exhibit educationally and artfully displays approximately 200 organs, human bodies and other anatomical specimens that reveal an enlightening understanding of the human body. Our Body: The Universe Within should not be confused with other traveling exhibitions, including "Body Worlds" or "Bodies, The Exhibition", nor is it affiliated with either exhibition. The typical exhibit size is approximately 15,000 sq. ft., The ECHO version is scaled down to 6,000sq. ft.

Q: What is highlighted in Our Body: The Universe Within?

A: Our Body: The Universe Within allows people to learn about their own bodies and, ultimately, teaches them how to take better care of their health and make positive lifestyle choices. The exhibition enables them to see and understand the medical conditions friends and family members face in a whole new way.


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Q: ECHO is an Aquarium, what is it doing hosting a show about the human body?

A: ECHO’s primary mission is to educate folks about the Ecology, Culture, History and Opportunity for stewardship of the Lake Champlain Basin. We use many methods to teach this and, as a science center, we invite and seek out exhibits that both challenge and educate our greater Vermont audience. Just as the Lake Champlain Basin has its own ecosystem, so to does each individual body. How we treat, manage and support our body reflects on the overall health of our body. This is also true for the Lake Champlain Basin. The study of the human body also draws a parallel to the never ending interconnectedness of various organs, tissues, bones, etc. of the human body and how the food we eat, water we drink and air we breath affects the body. The same is true for the Lake Champlain Basin.

Q: Why use real human specimens instead of constructed models?

A: Unlike models that idealize the body through the eyes of an artist, the specimens in this exhibition show the body and its parts as they really exist. Idealized models have been used for many years to teach about the body. They do not, however, allow for any variation in structure or pathologies – which is key in noting how unique our bodies are. As medical students and individuals have less time for the study of anatomy, it is even more important to have these unique specimens to give them both a greater understanding of anatomy and some sense of the variation of the human organism.

Q: What does polymer impregnation mean?

A: The unique method used to preserve the actual human specimens is a process in which the body’s water and fat is replaced with reactive plastics. The polymer plastic is initially pliable, enabling the specimens to be placed in different life-like positions and then hardens after infusions. Organs are identical to their preservation state down to the microscopic level. Polymer impregnated specimens are completely dry and odorless. They present the human body in a dramatic, artful and insightful way.

 

Q: What part of the anatomy is the hardest to preserve?

A: The brain is the most difficult organ to preserve due to the makeup of the brain, which is primarily composed of lipids (fat) and water. During the process of polymer impregnation, the brain can shrink significantly during dehydration if one is not careful. To manage this problem, the brain is dehydrated in a cold acetone thus better maintaining its original size and shape.

Q: What do the polymer-impregnated bodies feel like?

A: The specimens feel dry to the touch and can be either rigid or flexible, depending on the mix of chemicals used. While guests will be able to get very close to the specimens, as a rule, guests are not allowed to touch them.

 

Q: What is the appropriate age level for viewing Our Body: The Universe Within?

A: The teaching of basic human anatomy and physiology are hallmarks in any child’s education. We recommend that children attend the exhibition with a teacher or parent as an adult guide. We feel strongly that the exhibition can offer a rare family experience: A golden opportunity to open a child’s eyes – and, in a way no textbook ever could, to teach them about the complexities of the human body and the necessity of proper nutrition, regular activity and the importance of healthy lifestyle choices, such as avoiding smoking and alcohol.

Q: Where do the specimens originate from?

A: The scientific, educational exhibition, Our Body: The Universe Within was developed and provided by the Anatomical Sciences & Technologies Foundation in Hong Kong.

The specimens in the exhibition were provided by various accredited Chinese universities, medical schools, medical institutions, research centers and laboratories to further the goals of the Anatomical Sciences & Technologies Foundation which are to promote educational and medical research of the human body.

Q: Have the persons whose bodies have been donated consented to their use?

A: Acceptance of corpses (via donation by will or donation by the relatives) by the Chinese medical schools is the principle source of obtaining materials for medical anatomy and educational purposes. In China, all donors (or their immediate family members) are clearly told that the donated bodies will be used for medical research and educational purpose. Meanwhile, they are also guaranteed that all of their personal information will be treated as confidential.

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