For centuries people have been simultaneously fascinated by what’s inside the human body and squeamish about getting close enough to a cadaver to actually find out.
The Body of Knowledge exhibit, which opened last week and runs through December 5, illustrates some of the ways in which people have wrestled with that tension through the ages.
By the 1400s more scientific dissections were being done in university medical schools. These dissections were cultural spectacles, even tourist attractions. It wasn’t uncommon for city leaders to try to impress visiting dignitaries by taking them to see a dissection. After the invention of printing, the production of beautifully illustrated anatomical books began to flourish in the 1500s. Anatomists sought out artists to produce these books.