PORTLAND, Maine — The maxim that beauty is only skin deep is up for debate at the new Portland Science Center, where layers of epidermis have been pulled back to expose raw human anatomy.
Opening with the traveling show “ Body Worlds,” which features real human bodies, both healthy and diseased, the center strives to inspire learning through entertainment.
“Prior to seeing it, people will conjure up in their minds that they will see corpses, but the way the specimens are displayed; it’s a beautiful exhibition,” said Joe Gold, owner of the 15,000-square-foot center that opened Sept. 4 in Maine Wharf’s newest building.
Gold is a Massachusetts resident and principal of The Gold Group, a company that promotes museum shows. He selected the fascinating blockbuster that debuted in 1998 in Japan, for its sense of scientific awe and exploration. But this show is not for the squeamish.
The bodies on display are from a donation program managed by the Institute for Plastination. The science invented by Gunther von Hagens “displays the human body, its circulatory system, as never seen before,” said Gold.
Who should see this show?
“If they are in great health, if they are in poor health, if they are contemplating a medical procedure, they can see it right there in ‘Body Words’ what happened,” said Gold.
In the exhibit, healthy specimens are juxtaposed with the opposite (lean versus obese for example). Side-by-side comparisons of lungs diseased from smoking and a liver damaged by alcoholism are eye-opening.
“We’ve had people look at the lungs, take out their cigarettes right there and throw them out,” said Gold. “If you are overweight, you are going to want to go to the gym right away.”
Even doctors are impressed.
“Physicians have said this is the clearest way we’ve ever seen the human body,” he said.
The exhibition veteran understands the museum scene. On a weekend getaway to Portland last winter, Gold recognized the need for more cultural options in Maine’s largest city.
“All the restaurants were full, I was looking for a museum, and there wasn’t one open,” recalled Gold, who said to his wife, “here are all these great ideas, we produce exhibits all over, why not create something here?”
The center will host two traveling exhibits every year. Gold is eyeing shows such as The art of the brick, featuring Legos, Egyptian artifacts from King Tut and and the engineering of the Titanic. The theme throughout is science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“The public is looking for things to do,” said Gold. “That doesn’t always have to be music and comedy.”
Tickets are $19.50 for adults and $15.50 for under age 12. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.