Animal Inside Out
Natural History Museum
6 April - 16 September 2012
As a stubborn and resistant teenager, I remember the Natural History Museum on a obligatory school trip to be tormentingly dull. Sure, there’s some nice models of animals and casual taxidermy, but with a friend that wouldn’t allow me to take her near the dinosaur exhibition, I was trapped in a textbook of boredom, lacking inspiration.
This exhibition, however, blew all others out of the water. With over 100 plastinated animals, and some interesting views of their inners, this is one of the most original educational exhibitions I have ever seen. I longed to be the child there, staring at the wonder of plastinated capillaries and elephants inside-out. Although, I’m not entirely sure I would have been able to stomach it.
Gunter von Hagens created the process of plastinating animals (and humans). He injects plastic into the blood stream of a corpse, and dissolves the body in acid, leaving an intricate web of capillaries where the plastic has set. It is the most beautiful sight and despite its rather sinister side, where several dead animals are used for each piece, it is a true wonder.
Gunter appeared on a Channel 4 documentary called Crucifixion, which used the process within humans to create a Jesus on the cross. Taking you through his process and his thinking in making such a controversial sculpture, it was a gripping programme. I imagine that the final piece was incredible.
If you like gore, the Hunterian Museum at The Royal College of Surgeons on Kingsway is definately worth a visit, although not if you’re pregnant. John Hunter had an unhealthy obsession with embryos in jars, although there is some fascinating stuff in there. It’s amazing what formaldehyde can preserve.