Seeing humans -- inside out Exhibit: The Maryland Science Center takes an interactive approach to explore the body with holograms, models and microscopic displays.


For a chance to view the human body in a way unlike they had ever seen, Anitha Papudesi and Lillian Ponte took a quick detour on their way out of Baltimore to stop by the Maryland Science Center.

"I wanted to see this exhibit on the human body," said Anitha, 16, an aspiring doctor from Diamond Bar, Calif., who spent five weeks this summer taking biology and medical courses at the Johns Hopkins University. "I had heard that it was going to be a chance to see the body in a really different way, and it really was. It was amazing."

With the weekend opening of "Inside Out: The Visible Human," science visitors can see the human body from about every perspective imaginable.

"It's an exhibit different than anything we've ever done," said senior exhibit specialist Charlene Cross, who designed it. "It's visually interactive. From whatever angle you look at the displays and from wherever you stand, you're seeing something different."

Holograms that show the muscles of the body from one angle show the skeleton from another angle and the skin and outer tissues from a third angle.

"You get to see all of the parts of the body in one picture," said David Herrmann, 13, who was visiting the Inner Harbor museum from White Plains, N.Y. "You really can't see the body like this anywhere else."

As David walked through the display, his 6 1/2 -year-old brother, Jacob, raced ahead. "Cool," Jacob said, as he looked at spinal cells under a microscope and manipulated images of the body on a computer program.

The exhibit is based on data from the Visible Human project of the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

Begun in 1986, the $1.4 million project took a cadaver and digitally processed and recorded it in 1 millimeter segments. The male cadaver was a Texas inmate who was executed, and the female cadaver was a Maryland woman who died of heart disease and whose family asked that she remain anonymous.

The National Library of Medicine has granted 820 licenses for use of the data, ranging from CD-ROMs that allow computer users to examine the human body to a three-dimensional simulation that allows medical students to practice inserting needles into patients' spines, said Richard Banvard, an education research specialist at the library.

The science center's exhibit is based on images created by Alexander Tsiaras, an artist and photographer renowned for his work in the medical field.

It's the first time the Visible Human project has been adapted for public view in a museum, Cross said.

The exhibit is expected to be on display at the science center for six months, then travel to museums around the country.

Finishing touches of the exhibit aren't completed: A few items need to be labeled, and the strike by United Parcel Service workers delayed shipment of a couple of smaller pictures.

But such museum visitors as 5-year-old Kelsey Witherspoon of Phoenix in Baltimore County barely noticed.

"Ew," said Kelsey as she looked inside a model of the brain. Despite saying that it was gross, Kelsey was so fascinated that she kept looking deeper into the brain, pulling it apart horizontal slice by horizontal slice.

"She really seems to like this," said her father, Gordon Witherspoon. "The nice thing about this exhibit is that it seems to be much more based in the technical science than other things in the museum. I really like it, too."

Visible exhibit

Where: Maryland Science Center, Inner Harbor

When: For the next six months.

Pub Date: 8/11/97

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