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Real Bodies: The Exhibition, a new exhibit at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford that uses real human specimens to explore the complex inner workings of the human form.

When you run, jump, or dance, what is happening inside your body? What does breathing and swallowing actually look like? How does being in love physically affect the heart? These complex processes and many more are on display in Real Bodies, a sprawling new exhibition at the Connecticut Science Center combining art and science that offers an astounding and intensive look at our physical form. Throughout the exhibition, which runs through June 30, viewers will be able to better understand not only the physiological components of our anatomy, but historical, cultural and even emotional significance from the beginning of time.

Room by room, system by system, visitors will see preserved human specimens representing every aspect of our lives from our first breath to our last. From models, videos and interactive displays, to an extensive, 44-page guide for educators, there is a treasure trove of learning opportunities.

Real Bodies goes well beyond the surface, and even explains the significance anatomy has on various cultures, revealing, according to the Science Center, “the synergy between breathing, hunger, the rhythm of the heart, love, motion, thought, and medicine that makes each person unique.”

Even on a day off from her job as a massage therapist at The Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, my friend Kelly Withall McCaffrey can be found poring over imagery of anatomy or discussing body parts as if they are jewels. She has a remarkable passion for human physiology that she hopes others will experience when viewing the traveling exhibition. “It really is an incredible way to view the body, like looking under the hood of a car and actually seeing muscles where they attach to bones,” she says. “You get to see how our organs work harmoniously as we just go about our day.”

She is most fascinated by the three-dimensional perspectives of the bodies and array of organs. “We are used to two-dimensional drawings and X-ray images. But to see how muscles attach and wrap around joints is an important key for people, in particular, those who play sports or live in chronic pain. There is so much to learn and see,” says McCaffery, who first saw Real Bodies when it was in New York City.

As a novice when it comes to anatomy, I am astonished at how simultaneously fragile and strong the inner workings of our systems actually are. It’s as if a mystery both unfolds and expands in the same moment. It is deeply moving to stand in front of two specimens simply holding each other’s hands and see how the gesture itself, without any outward signs like smiles or tears, still conveys so much. In another scene, as a figure is in the middle of throwing a ball, so much is happening and so many parts are connected to create that one action. It is impossible to walk away from such imagery without newfound respect for our so-called temples.


Real Bodies: The Exhibition

Connecticut Science Center, Hartford

March 1-June 30

Tickets: Entrance is included with general admission, $16.95 for children,

$23.95 for adults, $21.95 for 65 and older, free for members

860-724-3623, ctsciencecenter.org

This article appeared in the April 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale here. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.