'Our Body: The Universe Within' 

Mid-America Science Museum, Hot Springs

Once you ease past the slight creepiness of walking among actual bodies and parts, the Our Body exhibition takes on a life of its own. The ultimate in deconstruction, this summer getaway trip is full of intrigue and wonder thanks to a “plastination” process that preserves even the most delicate tissue structure.

 It's a bare-bones tour through 5,000 years of anatomy tinkering, from early slice-and-dice with guys like Galen and Leonardo da Vinci, to a time where anyone can walk up to a body part and see how it hooks up with everything else.

The show features a few full body figures, but the rest of it is divvied up into parts that cover bodily systems such as muscular, circulatory, skeletal and reproductive. Each of the specimens also includes such minute detail as blood vessels, nerves and muscles.

There are some interesting cross-section studies too, featuring both a head and a full figure. The sections are mounted on sticks that swivel back and forth in a slow unison that provides some interesting angles.

One of the more arresting scenes has four fetuses, each in a different stage of development. One, for example, is still snuggled into its sac. And, if you need some smoking aversion therapy, there's a tragic pair of cancerous lungs on display.

Parents of small children might want to get an on-line preview of the show at www.ourbodytheuniversewithin.com before deciding to at-tend. With black curtains everywhere and people talking in low voices, there's kind of a funereal setting to the show anyway. Also, some of the body parts are rather artlessly displayed, although most of them are behind plastic cases.

 Plenty of kids wandered through, but few were taking the time to read the info at each display.

“If the kids would stay with their parents, they can get an excellent anatomy lesson,” said a registered nurse, who was visiting from Little Rock. “They've got all the material right here.” At $20 a pop (less for students and under-12s), parents need to maximize their outlay. Other-wise, the kids might see the exhibit only as an elaborate freak show.

Guided audio tours are available to rent and the show also features four video screens, which provide brief but excellent explanations of body systems and their interactions.

The exhibit runs through Sept. 28.


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