Academic journal article Manager

A Managerial Approach to A Controversial Exhibition: The Human Body

Academic journal article Manager

A Managerial Approach to A Controversial Exhibition: The Human Body

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Society nowadays, with its rapid changes and unforeseen challenges, needs a(n) (inter)cultural approach. Ethnocentrism, stereotypes, and discrimination have become huge obstacles in a world shaped by technology, communication and social mobility. The world has the aspect of a 'collage' in which cultures are juxtaposed, being partially adapted to one another, and still unprepared for a profound dialogue. Multiculturalism presents, interprets and re-evaluates the social experience of diversity and difference (Pauç, 2010, p. 44).

Why is a(n) (inter)cultural approach now necessary in studying our society? Martin and Nakayama identify six imperatives: technology, demography, economy, peace, self-awareness and ethics (Martin and Nakayama, 2007, p. 5). Living in an intercultural world, the above mentioned authors argue, raises significant ethical challenges.

From this point of view, exhibitions that display plastinated human bodies ('plastinates') have ceaselessly raised many ethical concerns and provoked debates. Is it science or entertainment? Is it education or disrespect for the dead? Is it aesthetics or bad taste? It is a fact that these exhibitions have broken the moral codes by showing human bodies dissected, skinned, in 'real-life' situations such as playing tennis or running. But at what point do these things become acceptable or unacceptable in society?

This paper will analyse the reception of the Human Body exhibition of 2013 in Romania from a managerial point of view. This approach is based on the hypothesis that the scientific success of the exhibition in Bucharest is mainly due to the managerial strategy of the museum and its public relations policy. The research is based on the exhibition visitors' book, to which a content analysis was applied.

The aim of the study is to investigate how the 'Grigore Antipa' Museum, host of the Human Body exhibition in Bucharest, Romania constructed the cultural context in which the scientific arguments prevailed over the religious ones, turning the exhibition of plastinated human bodies into an accepted public event, with a strong emphasis on education and science (medicine). The aims of the exhibition were: "to change the way in which visitors perceive the human body, offering Romanians, for the first time, the unique possibility of seeing their body through the lens of a surgeon and of experiencing a visual trip inside [a human body]" and "to convince the visitors to respect and take care of their body" (http://www.antipa. ro).

We argue that the positive reaction of the Romanian visitors (expressed in the visitors' book) was strongly influenced by the actual organization of the exhibition and the management strategy of the 'Antipa' Museum.

Our study is also based on the premise that the exhibitions and the museums, taken as cultural institutions, are not to be considered simple custodians of objects or artefacts. On the contrary, they can generate cultural representations and give a certain social or scientific value to the objects exhibited. "They do not so much reflect the world the world through objects as use them to mobilize representations of the world past and present." (Lidchi, 2013, p. 127).

2. Exhibiting plastinated bodies

Around the world, exhibitions of plastinated bodies have been both criticized and praised by academics. The scientific production related to the plastinated bodies exhibitions practically followed the exhibitions all around the globe, with journal articles published from Brasil or the US to the UK, France, Greece and so on.

Previous research conducted on the academic production of the last 20 years showed several major areas of interest: the pedagogical side, the ethics of displaying, the fusion between anatomy and aesthetics, the legal aspects related to organ donation, body donors and donation, visitors' attitudes and reactions, the 'posthumanity' of plastinated bodies (Scott, 2011, p. …

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