The Human Body Museum in Bangkok
Weird or Wonderful?
The Human Body Museum in Siam Square is a weird and amazing exhibition of 14 dissected human bodies from Japan. Some might think this is a really creepy idea but there is always a small audience who quite like to be freaked out by morbid things whilst on holiday. In some ways it is a little disturbing. But as this display is located inside the Faculty of Dentistry building at the medical university of Chulalongkorn, it also makes sense as an educational exhibit. Unlike the old dusty and rather sinister forensic museum in Thonburi, the human body exhibition is brand new and as sterile as an operating theatre. The feeling inside the white and minimalist rooms is more of a technical curiosity and the photos on this page are more troubling than the reality. We even saw several families taking their kids there...
Displayed in just two small rooms, the 14 standing bodies and 130 spare parts reveal different levels of dissection, exposing the nervous system, the network of arteries, the multiple layers of muscles on the 206 bones that make up our skeleton... all our precious internal organs just hanging in the open is definitely disconcerting. The entire digestive system appears so long it's hard to believe it can all fit in the small cavity of our body. The corpses are split open, cut in half or neatly sliced, you can even touch the bodies or weigh a real brain with your hand, it sure feels eerie.
How it's done
The process of plastination consisting of replacing water, fluids and fat inside the body with resin and plastic is absolutely spectacular. We all have seen body parts floating in fomaldehyde but it's always a bit distant as liquid tends to get brownish and murky after a while. Here you are faced with perfectly preserved bodies. The process is complex and very costly, the collection displayed here costs several million baht. Here's (briefly) how it's done: The corpse is first preserved in formalin (a variation of fomaldehyde), then placed in a bath of acetone at freezing temperatures which draws all the water out of the body. The body is moved to bath of liquid polymer (silicon rubber, polyester and resin epoxy). In the last phase, the plastic is hardened using gas, heat and UV light. Then it's up to the technician imagination to slice each body open in all kinds of directions.
Once you get over the uneasy feeling that comes with knowing that these are the bodies of real people, you can start looking at the exhibition parts with great interest. It's amazing to know that we are all living our little lives with these amazingly complex structures within us, but never could look at it this detail before. It might be gross to some but like it or not that's how you look inside. So if you happen to be in Siam Square just opposite Siam Paragon, go and scare yourself a little, it will give you an amazing story to tell once back home!
Human Body Museum
- Opening Hours: 10:00 - 16:00 closed on weekends and national Holiday
- Location: 9th floor of the Dentistry Faculty Building of Chulalongkorn University.
- Tel: +66 02 218 8635
- Price Range: 300 baht for adults, 100 baht for students
- How to get there: The university is very large so it's easy to get lost. Maybe the best way is to come from the back of Siam Square and enter next to the large and easy to spot book shop.