Thursday, April 11, 2013

The OMSI Prenatal Development Display

Last month our whole family spent our spring break vacation in Seattle and Portland.  While in Portland I was able to take the kids to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).  This place is seriously awesome!  I wish we had a place even remotely this awesome by me.  There are two floors packed with fun and science ranging from life science, to earth science, to energy.  There's even a fun science playground just for little tots like Linc (although the girls had fun in there too).  Last fall I was able to take Lincoln to OMSI and he had a blast, so I was super excited to take the girls.  Riley in particular is very interested in science, so I knew this place would be right up her alley.

We spent all day at OMSI so I got to check out a lot of the museum that I missed at my first visit.  One exhibit that I got to check out that wasn't open last time was the Prenatal Development Display.  Being that I have three kids and am currently in the process of becoming a surrogate, I was super excited to see this display.  I'm constantly amazed at the creation of life.  How can such a tiny mass of cells evolve and change so quickly into such a complex, beautiful, little being?  It amazes me each time I think of what our bodies can do.  I remember always saying, "I wish I had a little camera in my belly so I can see what's going on in there."  It's just one of those miracles that will never cease to amaze me.  The process is just so incredible.

So back to the OMSI Prenatal Development Display.  Had my friend not told me about the display, I might not have ever known exactly what it was.  Yes, there is a disclaimer posted on the wall, but I doubt I would have read it having three kids keeping me busy all the while.  Walking upon the display you will see it is for the most part walled off.  Once inside the round display, you notice all the stages of fetal development along the perimeter of the wall.  It starts at around 6 weeks gestation, all the way up to about 34 weeks gestation (I can't remember exactly where they started and stopped).  At first glance I would have thought these were carved replicas of each stage.  In fact though, if you read the disclosure on the wall (pictured on the right), you will realize that this is not the case.  Each display is a real preserved embryo or fetus showing actual size and detail  These were babies that were miscarried due to natural causes during pregnancy and collected from universities and hospitals.

I found the display fascinating   It was amazing to see just how much detail can be seen from so early on in pregnancy.  Yes, I realize these are babies that women had lost.  Being a woman that has lost a pregnancy at 11 weeks, I know the heartache that they must have went through.  I have not forgotten that pain and I do not ignore it while looking at this display.  That doesn't mean that I wasn't fascinated though.  That doesn't mean that I didn't want to learn what I could from these losses.  I guess the reason I'm bringing this up is because I came back from this trip excited to tell others of this amazing display.  I was not able to take photographs since they are not allowed so I Googled the display hoping to find photographs that others could look at.  While doing that I noticed that so many others were outraged by the display.  They didn't think it was right and in fact it was grotesque.  Now I'm wondering... am I wrong to like this display?  Am I wrong to look at it with a scientific eye?  I feel like I'm in the minority and I was curious what your thoughts are.  Have any of you visited this display or seen one that was similar?  What did you think?  What do you think you would think if you went to visit it?  My girls were equally amazed when they saw the display, but I guess that is probably because I've taught them to be that way.  I will not be hurt if you say that you did or would feel totally different than I did.  I know my sister said that she probably would have cried being in such a room.  It just got me thinking ...      


  1. Cadavers have been controversial for around 500 years -- since they first became foundational to the development of anatomy and medicine.

    Let these outraged people do without modern medicine. Otherwise they are hypocrites.

  2. I have also been to the OMSI Museum and had a look at the display. This was before I was pregnant so coming at it from a early 20's married adult point of view found it really educational, albeit sad. However, I'm pretty sure that the parents of these babies had to give their consent...

    Another display worth mentioning is the Body World exhibit that frequently tours the country. I saw it in 2006 in LA and at the time (I'm not sure if it is still true) there was a woman who had donated her body to the exhibit and she was in her 2nd trimester. There was a blurb also written about how the woman and her baby had both died of natural causes and she had consensually given herself and baby. I think she may have been a friend of the doctor behind the process.

    People then were outraged too.. but again, it's our body, our choice, right? The OMSI exhibit was tastefully sectioned off so that those sensitive to the scene or who don't want to see it don't have to. The same with the woman at Body Worlds - she was sort of walled off as well with proper "warnings".

  3. I agree with you, its fasinating! I also lost a baby die to miscarriage, but this would not change my interest. The creation of life os amazing!

  4. FYI: as a father that lost a wife and child during pregnancy I wanted to correct you. This is a wonderful display. However in no place does it say these were miscarried. These fetus displays are made up of all forms of natural caused ends, including being removed after the mother had passed away. Just some information


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