There aren’t many places in Texas you can find sheep, ostrich, and the intestines of a reindeer together in one room. Especially not preserved to show you the inner workings of the organs and animals themselves. But that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Perot Museum of Natural Science starting this weekend in a new exhibit called “Animals, Inside Out.”
The anatomical safari takes you deep inside a two-humped camel, a sheep, reindeer, even a cow. And while some of the specimens on exhibit sound like they belong on a menu of a restaurant, the preservatives used here are nothing you’d want to ingest. Each animal goes through a process called plastination that involves replacing the water in the tissues with polymers. The chemicals preserve the finest details, like capillaries the size of floss.
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Steve Hinkley is vice president of programs for the Perot Museum of Natural Science. He explains that the camel on display has had its skin pulled back, and neck and head trisected to reveal what’s inside.
“So you can see the brain, you can see the inside of the mouth the pattern for the salivary glands and how the structure of how this thing begins its eating process,” he says.
The fascination factor
This isn’t the first exhibit of plastinated organisms. In 2004, the exhibit “Body Worlds” brought to the U.S. hundreds of authentic human specimens. Jeff Rudolph is CEO of the California Science Center in Los Angeles, which was premiered “Body Worlds” in the U.S. That exhibit, Rudloph says, was an unprecedented success.
“By the time we closed ‘Body Worlds’ after the first seven month run, we actually were open for the last two weeks until midnight and the last three days nonstop, twenty four hours a day.”
He says the process of plastination turns animals and organs into pieces of art and draws visitors in.
“It lets us see ourselves and other living things in a way we really don’t otherwise get to see them and understand how they work,” he says.
Human brain, Giraffe Brain
Plastinated parts of humans are sprinkled throughout the exhibit at the Perot Museum as well. A leg, an arm, a brain… They’re on display, Hinkley says, to get you to think about the similarities between humans and animals.
“Not only does it help us develop more of an understanding of how we function but also a deeper appreciation on some level for these animals,” he says.
Some people will walk away from the exhibit intrigued, some stunned, some creeped out. One things for sure, it’s hard to forget a camel tongue and giraffe brain once you’ve seen it, inside out.