The Perot Museum of Nature and Science's latest temporary exhibit, Animal Inside Out, is a testament to the museum's goal of keeping science at the forefront of everything it does. It's also apropos that it's arriving during the build-up to Halloween, as many of the animals on display would fit right in with any good haunted house.
The exhibit, which opens to the public on Sunday, September 22, comes courtesy of the makers of Body Worlds, which had an ultra-popular stint in 2006-2007 at the former location of the Museum of Nature and Science in Fair Park. While that exhibit featured mostly humans with a few animals, this one focuses on the animal kingdom, with a couple of humans thrown in for comparison's sake.
There's no denying that some of the displays edge toward the macabre. But results are as intriguing as they are creepy.
Located in the Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones Exhibition Hall on the lower level, the exhibit comprises six main spaces, showing off more than 100 different animals in all their plastinated glory. Plastination is the process of removing water from a body and replacing it with plastic gels, allowing visitors to see the animals' tissue, muscles and organs in amazing detail.
There's no doubt that being able to view animal bodies close up, inside and out, is a fascinating exercise. Seeing how muscle connects to bone, the intricacy and fragility of a central nervous system, or the density of a body's trail of blood vessels is a science lover's dream. It's also fun that the exhibitors don't merely put the animals on display, but often put them in poses that intimate movement.
But there's no denying that some of the displays edge toward the macabre. A full-grown camel is one of the most striking displays in the exhibit due to its size, the fact that it has exposed muscle and innards — and because its head and neck have been trisected.
That's right, "trisected" as in "cut in three parts," with the cuts being made so that each eye is on the outside, and the main portion of the nose is in the middle. The same has been done to a horse's head. The results are as intriguing — with an inside look at the animals' nasal cavities and brains — as they are creepy.
It doesn't take long to detach yourself from your surroundings, though, allowing you to appreciate just how impressive the displays are. A filly is shown rearing up on its back legs, and right next to it is its entire system of organs, arranged to look as if they were still contained in the in-action body.
A dog, horse head, rabbit and pig are shown in purely blood vessel form, impressing not just with how many blood vessels there are in a body, but also in how the exhibitors were able to extract and arrange them in such a precise manner. Ostriches are shown in three forms — skeleton, blood vessels and plastinate — allowing for an interesting compare-and-contrast.
Other notable displays include two giant squid, two reindeer in full gallop, a bull that looks like it wants to take on the world, and a giraffe that includes a full plastinate specimen and a cross-section of its torso on the platform on which it stands. There's also a cross-section of a giraffe in the lobby of the museum, giving visitors a sneak preview of the exhibit.
Whether you're someone who's obsessed with science or just want to see something you've never seen before, Animal Inside Out is more than worth your time and money. The exhibit will remain on display through February 17, 2014.