Skip to main content

Human specimens on display at new exhibit in Halifax


The Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History’s newest exhibit may get under your skin.

Body Worlds Vital offers a glimpse into the hidden world of human biology with a jaw-dropping display of donated bodies and body parts.

“We have our bodies with us all our life," explained Dr. Angelina Whalley, exhibition curator. "It’s the very basis of our existence, but you never have the chance to really see firsthand what you are made of."

The museum hosted a different Body Worlds exhibit in 2018 which was met with an overwhelming response, said manager Jeff Gray.

"That show was still the most popular and most visited exhibit we’ve ever had at the museum," said Gray. "This one is even larger with more to see."

Organs, muscles, and skeletal structures are among the pieces on display.

The cadavers are frozen in time through a process called plastination which removes water in cells and replaces them with a polymer-like silicon.

"The entire process takes about 1,500 hours and one year to accomplish one full body specimen," said Dr. Whalley.

The exhibition has been met with controversy in the past - questioned by some for its moral and ethical practices.

"There are a lot of people who come and might be uncomfortable with some of the things that they see in the exhibit," said Gray. "However, I think that’s a personal choice and up to them to make that decision."

All of the specimens are from a body donation program maintained by the Institute for Plastination in Germany. There are currently more than 20,000 registered donors from all over the world.

"People sign up during their lifetime to be part of it," said Dr. Whalley. “We are very grateful for their contribution.”

The exhibit shows comparisons between what certain lifestyle and health choices have on the body. It also provides a glimpse into what common conditions look like below the surface.

"You can see a smoker's lung next to a non-smokers lung," said Dr. Whalley. "You can also see lung cancer. You can see what osteoporosis and arthritis looks like. These are all things that so many people suffer from but hardly have an idea of what it might be."

After seeing the display, Dr. Whalley says visitors often leave with a new perspective on what it means to be human.

"The body is the only place we have to live," said Dr. Whalley. “It’s our lifelong responsibility because whatever we do, or don’t do, it matters."

Body Worlds Vital is on at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History from January 27 to April 30. Top Stories

Stay Connected