The Bodies Human Exhibit

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I got used to seeing a lot of dead bodies at a very early age.
My aunt, Leila, was married to longtime Volga mortician and Brookings County coroner, Conrad Lee. He was in charge of picking up the person who had died, making arrangements with the families and embalming the bodies. She handled the job of making the deceased look natural and presentable for casket viewing. 
Leila was my favorite aunt and I spent a lot of time at her house. The funeral home was right next door and although I was never allowed in the embalming room, she’d always let me look at the dead people after she had them dressed and laid out in their coffin. I think she rather enjoyed it when others would comment on how natural the corpse looked and how she managed to get the hair just right.  Anyway, it was just part of my growing up so I wasn’t at all squeamish about visiting the “Bodies Human” exhibit in Watertown last weekend.This is one of several such exhibits that tour around the country giving visitors the chance to look inside real human bodies to see and understand what a marvelous machine we really are. They’re preserved in Taiwan by a process called plastination in which the natural body fluids are somehow replaced with plastic.
 The obvious questions..like who were these people and how did they wind up  skinned, sliced and dissected in this exhibit..aren’t answered in the brochure. But the owner of Bodies Human says they are the remains of Asian people and have been obtained through strictly legitimate means.
The reaction from our little group of four ranged from “fascinating, unbelievable, creepy, awesome, or, as Linda said a couple times..kind of sad.”
Well, you’ll have the chance to come up with your own description: the exhibit will be there through the end of October.
What I found nearly as interesting as the display cases full of hearts, lungs, livers and testicles was the building that houses the exhibit.
A couple years ago, lawyers, David Berry and his wife, Nancy Turbak- Berry..who is also a state senator from Watertown..made a decision to try salvage the historic Goss Opera House. Nancy told me Sunday that if she’d known what they were in for at the time they might have scrapped the idea. Restoration of the three story 1888 building is a monumental task that has a long way to go but thanks to a lot of volunteers, the Berrys were able to make the Opera House presentable for the Bodies Human exhibit. The place is really going to be something when it’s done. To learn more about the Goss Opera House project..including lots of photos, click here.

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