Exhibiting body parts in the Mind & Body Gallery


A human nervous system being prepared for educational display

A human nervous system being prepared for educational display.
Photographer: Stewart Thyer / Source: The University of Melbourne, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Why is the Mind & Body Gallery exhibiting human body parts?

A museum is a place where visitors expect to see and learn from authentic objects rather than replicas. The Mind & Body Gallery displays real human body parts because they can educate and illuminate in a way unmatched by drawings, photographs or models. Real body parts allow us to see the inside shapes and textures of our bodies, and to gain new insights into the way they work.

Where do the body parts come from?

The human body parts displayed in the Mind & Body Gallery are on loan from the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at The University of Melbourne.

Under what conditions do people donate their bodies to the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at The University of Melbourne?

The Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at The University of Melbourne use human body parts for educational purposes. People donate their bodies to the Department with the specific aim of advancing medical knowledge.

Can Museum Victoria legally exhibit human body parts?

Yes, under “The Human Tissue Act” the Museum of Victoria can display human body parts for medical or scientific purposes. The Inspector of Anatomy from the Department of Human Services has authorised the educational context in which human body parts are displayed in the Mind & Body Gallery.

Who is responsible for the body parts?

The specimens on display in this Gallery remain the responsibility of the University, to whom they were originally donated. We ask that you show respect for these human remains.

What ultimately happens to the body parts?

Body parts donated to the University are finally cremated. The ashes may be returned to the next-of-kin if they should so wish.

Can we obtain any information on the identity of the people who have donated their bodies?

No, out of respect for the next-of-kin the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at The University of Melbourne maintains the anonymity of donors.

Who should people contact if they want to donate their bodies to the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at The University of Melbourne?

If in the future you wish to donate your body to The University of Melbourne for the purposes of advancing medical knowledge you will have to put your request in writing. Address it to the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville

Please remember that there is always a shortage of organs for transplantation. You can find out more about the donor program at the Australian Organ Donor DonateLife website.

Is this the first time that human body parts have been exhibited at Museum Victoria?

No, this is not the first time that human body parts have been exhibited at Museum Victoria. A human hand, heart and skeleton were displayed for many years in the Children’s Museum at 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Are plastinated body parts real?

Yes, plastinated body parts are real. Some of the body parts displayed in the Mind & Body Gallery have been preserved in silicon by a method called plastination.

Before a body part is dissected, the body is embalmed to prevent decay. The part is removed and soaked in a solution of liquid silicon. The silicon soon takes the place of water in the body part and sets hard. This is plastination. Plastinated specimens are dry and odourless. They should last a very long time.

How do you feel about the display of human body parts within the Mind and Body Gallery?

The Museum believes that visitors prefer to see authentic objects, not replicas. This is a major reason why real human body parts are on display.

Before mounting this exhibition, the Museum sought public opinion. A range of community groups were consulted, and visitor research was conducted. The information obtained showed clear public support for such a display in an educational context at Melbourne Museum.

How do you feel about the display of human body parts within the Mind and Body Gallery?

Melbourne Museum invites you to register your comments in the Melbourne Museum visitor book. You can also mail your comments to Dr Patrick Greene, CEO Museum Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne Victoria 3001.

Comments (3)

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hema 28 August, 2010 02:23
excellent and informative
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trudy pitts 26 January, 2011 11:57
When will the exhibit be closer to Alabama? I would like to see this and will travel, within a respectable range, like georgia, or Dothan,Alabama.
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Discovery Centre 27 January, 2011 15:56
Hi Trudy - this exhibition is a long-term exhibition here in Melbourne Museum in Australia, and it's unlikely to get any closer to Alabama than it currently is, sadly.
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