Real Bodies The Exhibition at the nec


I find the human body endlessly fascinating.  I grew up with a nurse mother, a chronically ill father, sneaking away to read my cousin’s copies of How My Body Works books and grossing out my little sister with my mum’s books on foot fungus.

Unlike my mum, my interest in the human body never went beyond an AS level and a stint working in hospital communications, but the human body continues to awe me.  A few years ago, thanks to a very morbid map of London, I discovered The Hunterian Museum, hidden in the Royal College of Surgeons building.  The museum holds around 3500 anatomical specimens, including preserved tumours, skeletons affected by syphilis, the full skeleton of ‘the Irish giant’ Charles Byrne and a number of animal skeletons.  It’s closed for a few years to undergo a major refurbishment, but in the mean time, Real Bodies The Exhibition has landed in Birmingham.


Over 200 anatomical specimens make up Real Bodies The Exhibition, and the displays are separated out into several galleries with topics like breathe, move, rhythm, think and love.  The bodies on display are real adult bodies, preserved using Polymer Preservation, which uses liquid silicone rubber and the process can take up to a year, but it allows for the bodies on display to be presented in dynamic poses to show how extraordinary the human body is.


According to the FAQs, the specimens are all unclaimed bodies (meaning no next of kin have come forward to claim them) that have been donated by relevant authorities to medical universities in China, donated legally and provided to the exhibition by Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique Co Ltd.  Some of the specimens are specific parts of the body, including lungs, hearts, veins and reproductive organs, whereas others are full specimens.


So whilst the exhibition doesn’t sensationalise, if you’re squeamish, this probably isn’t for you (although you’ve probably given up reading by now if you are).  Another gentle warning is presented toward the end of the exhibition in the Life gallery, which shows different foetus at different developmental stages.  Visitors which may find this gallery distressing are able to miss it out, if they should so wish.


As part of Real Bodies The Exhibition, visitors attending on Thursday 2nd August 2018 are invited to attend, free of charge, one of four one-hour classes looking at a perspective on human anatomy, including Yoga in the Repair Gallery, Real-life anatomy art class, Philosophy of the ‘Self Being’ and “Why donate your body to science?”

To book tickets, visit or for tickets to Real Bodies The Exhibition, which is at the nec until Sunday 19th August, visit

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