Real bodies laid bare at Sydney exhibition

An exhibition is giving Sydneysiders the chance to see more than 20 real, preserved human bodies and 200 other anatomical specimens up close.

The human circulation system is just one of 200 anatomical specimens on display at Real Bodies.

The human circulation system is just one of 200 anatomical specimens on display at Real Bodies. Source: AAP

From a cross-section of a head to a smoker's blackened lungs, there are few preserved human body parts you won't find at a new Sydney exhibition.

More than 20 full human bodies and 200 anatomical specimens have gone on display at Real Bodies, an exhibit aimed at giving people an intimate look at what they're made of.

Real Bodies The Exhibition consists of 11 galleries, containing 20 real human bodies and 200 real human parts.
Source: AAP

The cadavers and organs have been preserved through plastination, a process through which tissues are essentially turned into plastic.

The exhibit is broken down into several sections, each focused on different physiological functions such as breathing or physical attraction.

It includes a series of embryos and fetuses of varying ages.

The specimens have been sourced from China's Dalian Medical University by the exhibition's US-based organisers, Imagine Exhibitions.

As with similar shows held around the world, some groups such as Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting have expressed concerns the bodies may have belonged to people from persecuted Chinese minorities, including members of the Falun Gong.

But Imagine Exhibitions president Tom Zaller says there is "absolutely no basis" for such claims.

A human skeleton at the Real Bodies exhibition.
Source: AAP

"It's a completely ridiculous accusation," Mr Zaller told AAP on Thursday.

Mr Zaller admitted some people have a separate ethical issue about those whose bodies are displayed not having agreed to it.

The bodies were all "unclaimed", Mr Zaller said, meaning they would have been collected by a government entity when the person died before being donated to a medical school.

"This person did not know he would be here. We've never claimed that he would know he would be here," Mr Zaller said, gesturing to a nearby body.

"Just as if you went to the museum and saw the King Tut exhibition, or a mummy exhibition. Those mummies on display, they didn't know they were going to be on display."


Mr Zaller has been involved in similar exhibitions for more than a decade and said their educational benefits were clear.

"What I know now is that because I have displayed these specimens around the world children have become doctors, and that is powerful to me," he said.

Real Bodies has the backing of Australasian Institute of Anatomical Sciences president Gavin Burland.

"An opportunity to come and view the real body and understand the complexity - even I'm in awe, and I've been in the industry for 15 years," he told AAP.

Mr Burland said he was comfortable with the ethics of such exhibitions.

"These bodies would have otherwise been a wasted resource from a scientific perspective."

Real Bodies opens at Sydney's Byron Kennedy Hall at the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park on Saturday, marking its Australian debut.

Published 13 April 2018 at 8:56am, updated 13 April 2018 at 9:11am