A museum exhibit with body and soul
February 7, 1998
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST (0400 GMT)
MANNHEIM, Germany (CNN) -- At Mannheim's Museum of Technology and Labor, an exhibit gives us the real inside story.
On display are corpses without skin -- artful, eerie sculptures of the lifeless. A rare peek inside the human body that provides insight into the strength, beauty and fragility of people.
The corpses are preserved with injections of plastic by a process invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the curator.
When the cadaver hardens, the body parts keep the same shape and color as when they were alive.
The exhibit is so popular that on a recent cold Saturday, 10,000 people waited patiently, as long as five hours, to see the bodies.
A half million visitors are expected to view the four-month exhibit, which ends in March.
The cadavers are the bodies of people who signed agreements before their deaths to have their remains put on display.
But some people are critical of the exhibit.
Dr. Klaus Unsicker of Heidelberg University said that "what happens in Mannheim is an enormous PR story, with the goal really -- to better sell corpses. Right? So it is the first industry that sells dead people."
Von Hagens disagrees.
"This is not a hall of death. This is a hall of teaching and of understanding the nature in ourselves," he said.
Von Hagens said his mission isn't making money, but to unveil the human body as never before. The infinite intricacies of what he calls "our inner face."
For example, we see what cigarettes do to the human lung, and how misshapen and discolored organs become when we abuse them.
One visitor says the exhibit gives her a greater understanding of the body.
"How intricately and marvelously we are put together," she said.
Correspondent Bill Delaney contributed to this report