In our efforts to explore Columbia and simultaneously expand our minds and horizons, my brother Solomon and I took a trip to the South Carolina State Museum to see the much talked about Body Worlds Vital exhibit. Before I delve into the exhibit itself, I want to hi-light a few things about the museum as an entirety. Our state catches a lot of bad press (admittedly from myself occasionally) for our education system, economy, still existing social norms etc. but one thing no one can diss on is our museum! It’s housed in a four story former textile mill. The mill itself was a first back in the day (when it opening in 1894 it was the first totally electric textile mill in the WORLD…cool) and it was recently voted one of the three best museums in the Southeast along with the High Museum in Atlanta and the Smithsonian Institution. Impressive. Perhaps most promising is the fact that the museum just opened in 1988, this makes it a quite young museum with an already large amount of artifacts and room to add many more as the years go by. I advise not only going to see their limited time special exhibits, but definitely touring the whole museum if you’ve never been.
On to the exhibit. This is one that was not for the weak of heart or stomach! The entire exhibit consisted of…dead bodies that have been skinned, preserved, posed and in some cases, carved up all for the sake of education (and art?). The body’s were all donated to science and they really were immaculately preserved! You could see the muscles, veins, bones, fat etc. in tact and up close and personal. Most bodies were encased in glass but a few were in open air…trust me I didn’t touch them and no, there wasn’t a posthumous stench in the air although it did take me back to high school biology dissection.
These are two of the bodies that were on display outside of a glass case; they’re dancers! They were also two of the most in shape bodies on display. By viewing the exhibit we got to see first hand a lot of the things we learned about in biology about the infrastructure of the human body, but what struck home most with me were the lessons taught about the importance of nutrition, exercise, avoiding toxins and avoiding stress. All throughout the exhibit were factoids about the above mentioned elements of health and I personally was relieved and encouraged to see an emphasis on red wine in moderation ( I consider 2 glasses moderate…right?). There were cross-sections of a thin persons thigh next to the thigh of an obese person (both resembled prosciutto); this was a pretty startling visual. The obese thigh was three times larger in circumference and you could see how thick the layer of fat was around the bone and muscle! There was a healthy lung next to a smokers coal black lung…social smoking be damned! I’ve made some resolutions.
This guy was a little scary but comical too. His body was fanned out on either side of his skeleton…the hat was added for humor in order to cut back on the grotesqueness of the body. You can really see the structure of the muscles and rib-cage in this one.
The exhibition was a definite hit for Solomon and I. We are both already somewhat health conscious but this reaffirmed our quest and taught us many new facets concerning the anatomy and upkeep of the human body. The exhibit is not closed (we went on the last weekend) but will continue to tour around the country. Inspired by what we had learned, after we left the museum we went to Lamb’s Bread Vegan Cafe on Main St. Columbia to get some healthy smoothies. I had the ivy moss smoothie which tasted…healthy. The cafe’s decor was really cool and the menu looked delicious! We weren’t hungry enough to eat a meal at the time (maybe it had something to do with the body viewings) but definitely plan on going back to check out the local vegan fare. I’ll make sure to post when I do. Peace!