Boston’s citizens have had the opportunity since late fall to witness a Body Worlds exhibit, an anatomical exhibition seen by more than 40 million visitors worldwide.
Body Worlds Vital,an exhibit featuring more than 200 chemically preserved individual human specimens and 15 whole cadavers all stripped of skin, is open to the public on the second floor of Faneuil Hall until April 1.
“Our Body Worlds exhibit in Boston is an anatomical display that celebrates the potential of the activity in the human body,” said Ryan McGill, the director of operations of Boston Exhibits LLC and general manager of Body Worlds Vital.“Visitors have the opportunity to see what the human body looks like from within-without the skin and fat.”
After graduating from Northeastern University, McGill went on to serve as a captain in the United States Marine Corps. After his military service, he was hired as director of operations and general manager for Boston exhibits. As general manager, McGill oversees the operations of the entire exhibit. This includes monitoring ticket sales, staffing employees, and working with Body Worlds representatives in Germany and throughout the U.S.
McGill was also one of the key leaders responsible for bringing a Body Worlds exhibit to Boston. While some criticize placing multiple human body displays in a 271-year-old marketplace, McGill believes that the location of Faneuil Hall is optimal.
“I believe Faneuil Hall is a key spot for our exhibit,” McGill said. “The location receives over 18 million tourists per year, and many guests are [from] out of the state or even out of the country.”
Human body exhibits have been a source of controversy over the years. While some critics question the origin of the bodies on display, Body Worlds Vital-created by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the scientist behind the Body Worldsexhibits-remains one of the few with an official body donation program.
Plastination, invented by Dr. von Hagens, is a method of extracting bodily fluids and fat from specimens and then pumping in plastic to replace them, allowing spectators to see inside the human body, learn how it works, and see how it can be affected by disease.
One of the key themes of the exhibit is promoting lifestyle changes. Body Worlds Vital promotes health awareness with side-by-side comparisons of a smoker’s lungs and an alcoholic’s liver to healthy organs. The exhibit also has a display that shows how obesity affects the body.
Besides the various health displays, Body Worlds Vitalshowcases cadavers in various sports poses.
“What’s incredible about this exhibit is that visitors are able to see under the skin of a baseball player, two hockey players, and even two flamenco dancers,” McGill said.
Since its opening during the holiday season, the Body Worlds Vitalexhibit has seen a wide variety of spectators flock to Faneuil Hall.
“A major success we’ve had is that the museum has been able to track how many people have been coming in and out of the museum and where they’re coming from,” McGill said. “It has been helpful that we’ve seen a huge number of college kids come through the exhibit, and our expectation is that many more students will want to come see the exhibit.”
One of McGill’s preliminary goals as general manager was to attract a number of local residents to visit Quincy Market.
“One of our goals from the beginning was to bring as many locals as possible back to the exhibit,” McGill said. “We’ve seen a large number of locals and families return to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which has been great for the local community.”
During the last few months in Boston, McGill hopes to attract more visitors by offering different types of promotional events. The exhibit will host a sketch night for art students on March 5, offering students a chance to work with actual models. Body Worlds Vital will also offer a college night later in March, when students will be offered a discounted ticket fee of $15 and Faneuil Hall will be open for extended hours.
Based on the current success of Body Worlds Vital, McGill plans to host future exhibits in the Boston area, including the Titanicand Art of the Brick.
“Body Worldshas been a great success, and I’m excited about our future,” McGill said.