« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

By Sherri Richards, Published January 20 2003

Anatomy of an exhibit: 'Healer Within' gives visitors virtual tour of human body

The human body is a complex machine.

It can rebuild itself. It can make itself better. It has the technology.

The ability to fight off infections, heal wounds and repair broken bones lies within.

That's the message of The Healer Within, a 2,000-square-foot traveling exhibit currently on display at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.

The Healer Within has been on the road for two years. After its three-month stay in Moorhead, the exhibit is headed to the Smithsonian's Arts and Industry Museum in Washington, D.C.

"This is one of the best exhibits I've seen as far as hands-on exhibits," says Rachel Asleson, exhibits and education director for the Hjemkomst.

An eight-minute video presentation featuring the cartoon tour guide The Healer -- modeled after Greek physician and father of medicine Hippocrates -- and his snake, Hermes, welcomes visitors. Surrounding the central theater are information panels geared to adults.

The hands-on exhibit includes 34 interactive components, including a human nervous system, biofeedback machines, organ models and computer games.

Cancer Defender resembles the SIMS as visitors make lifestyle choices relating to their health. They are encouraged to pick the healthier option, such as drinking water instead of beer or soda, exercising and sunscreen.

Immune Warriors, a virtual-reality exhibit, turns visitors into white blood cells. They maneuver through the veins, collecting foreign particles and expelling them from the body.

Quotes along the exhibit walls cite the wisdom of August Bier, Socrates, Irish proverbs and Erma Bombeck.

A skeleton sits upon a bicycle, muscles poised to peddle when the proper buttons are pushed. Visitors are quizzed by a transparent anatomical mannequin about different bodily functions.

Asleson is intrigued by a large model of the heart, which shows how blood flow can be restricted by plaque in the arteries and blood pressure is increased by too much salt in your diet.

"You can see what your heart does," she says.

The $600,000 exhibit was created by the Kirksville (Mo.) College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Bill Castles, executive producer of the exhibit, says he got the idea for The Healer Within after visiting science centers with his children on vacations.

He says the exhibit is tailored to kindergarten through eighth-grade students.

"It really helps kids identify how their bodies work and how they can optimize their wellness," he says.

There are 10 lesson plans for teachers' use that tie into the exhibit.

With support from the Dakota Medical Foundation, all school groups within a 125-mile radius will receive free admission to the exhibit. The 45-minutes school tours begin Jan. 27.

"I'd really like to see at least one grade from 385 schools in the area stop in," Asleson says.

Castles says The Healer Within is about empowering the individual to take an active role in increasing the quality and longevity of his or her life.

"The kids have such a good time here, they bring their parents," Castles says. "I think it will really create an awareness for children, the importance of good health."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525

If you go …

-What: The Healer Within

-When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to

5 p.m. Sundays, through April 30

-Where: Hjemkomst Center, Moorhead

-Admission: $4.50 for adults, $4 for college students and senior citizens, $3.50 for ages 5 to 17 and free for children younger than 5 and area school groups

-For group tours: Call John Peterson at (218) 299-5511,

ext. 223