Real Bodies The Exhibition Q & A with Tom Zaller – President and CEO

Real Bodies The Exhibition is a powerful thought-provoking exhibition exploring life by displaying 20 real, perfectly and respectfully preserved human bodies and more than 200 anatomical specimens, inviting visitors of all ages to examine the human experience from the first breath to the last in dramatic and moving displays.

The exhibition takes place at The NEC and is on until 19th August 2018 (more info here).

We went along to the press preview and caught up with Tom Zaller – President and CEO of Imagine Exhibitions.

Tom Zaller Q&A

Q – Tom, it was nice to meet you at the private viewing of Real Bodies The Exhibition last Thursday. Firstly, welcome to Birmingham. How are you finding England’s second city and how does it compare to your home town of Atlanta U.S.A.?

Hello Nick, it was a pleasure to meet you at the opening. I truly enjoyed my time in Birmingham, and look forward to coming back with other exhibitions and perhaps for a little R&R.

Q – The exhibition was unlike anything I have ever seen before. The human body is so complex and fascinating, the way in which the bodies have been displayed is creative and thought provoking. Please could you tell me a brief history of how the exhibition was conceived and subsequently created.

The Exhibition is a culmination of many creative and scientific minds.  I personally have been involved in presenting human anatomy exhibitions for over 14 years now and Real Bodies The Exhibition is our latest iteration of the compelling use of preserved human specimens to allow visitors to connect with their body in a way that they may not have before. Seeing first hand theses incredible specimens and learning about the scientific, cultural and historical beliefs and customs of people around the world provide a fascinating hands-on approach to education, entertainment and immersion. I hope that the people of Birmingham continue to come out in droves to see the exhibition.

Q –  I understand the exhibition has traveled the world. What are the logistics of transporting such sensitive cargo from country to country.

Real Bodies The Exhibition arrived at the NEC from a venue in Brussels. The exhibition was shipped overland to England from Brussels in three Mega Trailer Trucks. Upon arrival, the installation took nine days to complete with a travelling crew of four who flew in from all over the world.

Upon arrival in Birmingham, the specimens underwent inspection from the appropriate authorities in order to receive clearance that all specimen meet the requirements of the Human Tissue Act.

Q – Some people will be sensitive to the display of real human bodies. Have you ever had anyone pass out or react badly to the exhibition on moral grounds, if so how did you counter that.

The exhibition is a powerful and thought-provoking display of human anatomy that has been seen and enjoyed by millions of visitors worldwide. We receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from visitors, with 90% of visitors in other markets reporting that they are likely to recommend the exhibition to a friend in visitor surveys. Visitors consistently report feeling inspired, educated, and awe-struck by the exhibition, and leave with a newfound sense of appreciation for the human form.

That being said, we feel it is our duty of care to provide as much information to visitors about the exhibition before booking tickets as possible in order that they may arrive on the day informed about the content on display. This information can be found on the NEC and our Real Bodies website, and is displayed right the way through to entering the exhibition hall itself!

Q – What would you hope people can learn from the exhibition, is there anything that you would recommend people pay special attention to.

We want visitors to have fun while learning more about themselves through the study of the human form presented in this approachable and thoughtful way. We hope they come away with an uplifting sense of how resilient, creative, and hopeful humanity has been through time – and continues to be today. Real Bodies The Exhibition offers a message of unity in a time the world can use it most.

Q – What is your favourite exhibit and why?

I think my favourite is the comparison between a healthy and a diseased lung which gives visitors and first hand physical example of why it is important to make smart lifestyle choices and what can happen if you don’t!

Q – If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who wants to view the exhibition but is unsure what would that be.

Real Bodies The Exhibition is a comprehensive educational experience with multi-layered narratives and unique individual specimens presented in dramatic, compelling environments. Real Bodies The Exhibition explores much more than just the human anatomical systems and the way we work. It is not only an in-depth look at the “how” of human anatomy, but also an exploration of “why,” posing deeper questions in each gallery such as “Why are we here?” “Where are we going?” and “What becomes of us?”

We hope visitors will come with an open mind and an eagerness to learn about the human body. This exhibition provides a unique perspective on anatomy and physiology that visitors are unlikely to receive anywhere else.

Interview by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham