Jennifer Eubanks leaned in for a closer look.
The brain was reddish-brown, discolored because of a stroke.
“Wow,” Eubanks said, peering into the case where it sat. “Oh, wow.”
The Puyallup woman wasn’t at a laboratory or hospital; she was at the Puyallup Fair. And her reaction wasn’t unique.
The exhibit “Our Body: The Universe Within” – which features preserved human bodies, bones and organs and is new to the Fair this year – drew dozens of people Friday morning.
Several said they were fascinated.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Eubanks, a 40-year-old student in the medical assistant program at Everest College in Tacoma. She came with a large group of classmates.
“We’re learning about (human anatomy),” she said. “To see it now up close and personal – it’s absolutely amazing.”
The exhibit is housed in a building by the Red Gate and costs $7 on top of fair admission. There’s no age restriction. The fair runs through Sept. 23.
Fairgoers young and old wandered through Friday, perusing the displays.
The exhibit features about 200 specimens, everything from a skeleton to a body showing the brain and nervous system to individual organs and bones. The specimens are preserved through polymer impregnation, in which – according to the exhibit website – “the body’s water and fat is replaced with reactive plastics.”
Educational signs are peppered around the rooms, with information about each display and facts about the human body. When fairgoers first walk in, they’re greeted with signs charting the history of study of the human body, from writings in 400 BC to the development of the CAT scan, a feat that won a 1979 Nobel Prize.
A physician also often is on hand to answer questions.
Tiffany Hix, 26, of Spanaway, was one of the Everest College students touring the exhibit Friday. She also stopped at the case with the stroke-damaged brain. She described the exhibit as “enlightening.”
“I’m a real hands-on learner,” she said. “Being able to see how it (all connects) on the inside – it really makes you respect the body.”
Fair spokeswoman Karen LaFlamme said exhibit attendance has been brisk and she’s heard positive comments.
There has been some negative reaction, too. About a half-dozen people have complained about the exhibit being at the fair, LaFlamme said.
These kinds of exhibits have stirred controversy over the years, especially over how the specimens are obtained.
One exhibitor – not the one putting on the Puyallup exhibit – was investigated by New York’s attorney general a few years ago after concerns were raised that some of its bodies might have come from executed Chinese prisoners. The investigation found the company couldn’t show the origins or cause of death of its cadavers.
Jim Merila, general manager of the Universe Within Touring Co., which is putting on the Puyallup Fair show, said last month his company’s specimens are ethically collected and examined to determine there was no abuse or neglect. They’re provided by accredited Chinese universities and medical and research institutions, the exhibit’s website says.
Several of the Everest College students said they felt the exhibit was respectful.
“There’s nothing to be scared of,” said Melissa Dyer, 35, of Puyallup. “It’s educational.”
Dalene Walsh seemed to feel the same way.
The 46-year-old Lakewood woman came with her daughter, Amy, 20. Dalene Walsh said she was reluctant because she can get queasy, but “it was nothing like I thought it would be.”
She suffered two strokes and had three brain surgeries years ago because of a medical condition, she said. She’d seen many photos and X-rays of brains before, but “it was totally different seeing it in its actual form,” she said.
“It was really interesting to me.”