Get up close with real human bodies, organs at museum's 'Bodies Revealed' exhibit

Get up close with real human bodies, organs at museum's 'Bodies Revealed' exhibit
Get up close with real human bodies, organs at museum's 'Bodies Revealed' exhibit
Get up close with real human bodies, organs at museum's 'Bodies Revealed' exhibit

Bodies Revealed exhibit returns to Grand Rapids Public Museum

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- See the inside workings of a brain or take an up-close look at a damaged lung at the “Bodies Revealed” exhibit that has returned to the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Ten real human body specimens and hundreds of human organs are on display for the public to get a better look at the inner workings and function of the human body, and how certain choices can have significant effects.

“This is an anatomy lesson for the public,” said Roy Glover, exhibit medical director. "The way that the galleries are organized is kind of like an anatomy textbook.”

The exhibit opens for a months-long run Saturday, Nov. 16 at the museum, 272 Pearl St. NW.

Walking in, visitors first enter the skeletal system which serves as the basis of understanding the human body. Then, room by room, each layer is added: muscles, nerves and the cardiovascular system – which includes the heart, arteries and more.

“We start with the skeleton,” said Glover, who taught anatomy at the University of Michigan for 35 years. “Then we add muscles to the skeleton, the skeleton doesn’t move unless the muscles pull on it. Then we add nerves because the muscles don’t contract unless they have nerves. We add a heart and blood vessels that nourish them, some lungs and digestive organs that keep us healthy.”

After that, visitors can get a good look at the urinary and reproductive systems, as well as be able to interact with a preserved liver, smoke-damaged lungs, bones and a foot.

The bodies and organs are preserved through a lengthy process: they are first embalmed with formaldehyde, dissected, washed in water, then soaked in acetone before finalized in liquid silicone. During that process, the acetone exits the body in gas form, and the body is then preserved to be used for as long as it is taken care of.

The bodies used in the exhibit are from Dalian Medical School in China.

Standing next to a smoke-damaged lung, Spectrum Health Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician Shelley Shmidt spoke about how vaping-related lung injuries have been a recent concern nationally, and right here in Grand Rapids.

“We’ve seen patients come in, it might be as little as shortness of breath, cough,” Shmidt said. “We’ve had them coming in coughing up blood, we’ve had them coming in with severe lung inflammation that’s required life support.”

Shmidt said the severe injuries are most likely to come from the unregulated THC used in many vaping products coming off the street. Another issue has been nicotine poisoning, where patients come in with seizures and other side effects.

“(The THC dissolved in vapes) is effectively like grease... in the lungs,” Shmidt said. "The oxygen does not move through that grease, and so these patients get into a whole lot of trouble in a hurry.”

Pointing to a healthy lung, and then a damaged lung, Shmidt said the hospital wanted to use the museum exhibit as an opportunity to educate the public even more.

“Nicotine, in the developing brain, can actually hardwire the nicotine addiction into the brain for life,” Shmidt said. “Unfortunately, we have millions of active vaping nicotine-addicted youth right now, and so they need to realize that there’s resources for them.”

Glover said the overall goal of the exhibit is to not only educate the public on their body and how it works, but how lifestyle choices can have a significant effect on one’s health.

“What we want visitors that come here to understand is that their body is a precious thing,” Glover said. “It’s probably the most precious gift they’ve ever been given, and who’s more in charge of it than you?”

“Bodies Revealed” is scheduled to be open through spring 2020. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $3 for children. Admission is free for children under 2 years old.

Tickets are now sold out for Saturday and are selling quickly for Sunday.

Find tickets and more information at