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The Tech Museum in San Jose, CA: To Go or Not to Go?

Updated on March 25, 2011
Typical Body World exhibit
Typical Body World exhibit
Body slices
Body slices

San Jose, home to millions, is a young city, as cities go. It was not until the late 60's-70's-80's that it went from a small town of 50,000 to a metropolis of millions and called "Silicone" valley, home to Apple, HP, Cisco etc.

It is fitting that SJ have some culture and so we have the "Tech" museum, in downtown SJ. It is central enough for most bay area residents, even those 2 hrs away from the North Bay. The cost varies, but general admission is $19 for adults and includes one IMAX movie of your choice. Extra IMAX movies are $5 each. That said, if the Body World Vital exhibit is still there, that is ADDITIONAL COST on top of the general admission.

The museum itself is modern and has three floors. The bottom has the cooler, more adult-teen type things like, the Earthquake ride, Mars explorer, underwater exhibits. The middle section is the entry, has IMAX, a small cafe, and is where the Body World exhibit is. The top floor is, well, literally, kiddie stuff, enjoyed by those under 8-10.

Much of the items in the museum is dated, but remains educational at a very rudimentary level. Many items lack instructions as to what is suppose to happen on interaction displays, some are simple exhibits that one reads. I am not sure if "museum" really applies here, it seems to be more of a technology gallery covering anything techie, it is not about computers. The top floor can be covered within 30 min and it leaves no real lasting impression, at least, a real positive one. Many things are not techie but environmental\techie, like solar energy panals, water from the ocean etc.

The IMAX movies are generally interesting, each 45 min long. They change all the time, but Hubble, about outer space and far off galaxies, and The Human Body are the best. Both offer amazing views on their topics and incredible shots. However, they need to clean the dust from the lens of the projector because large chunks were present at our showings and very annoying. IMAX movies engulf you, the viewer and have incredible sound.

The bottom floor contains artifacts from the planet Mars, the lunar rover, lots of photos from those space explorations, a simulated ride as if you are in outer space, underwater exhibits and the earthquake "ride" so you can experience a 8.4. Basically, for a few seconds you are jostled all around.

It is the Body World Vital exhibit that makes it worthwhile. Period. This exhibit will not be there forever, it moves around from museum to museum. At one time, it was in San Diego. Because all of the exhibits are from actual human beings, some are recent, others over 100 yrs. old. Most of the human body is shown, some as whole skeletal with veins, muscles, organs. All have been plasticised (called, plastination) with a liquid polymer, so in the exhibit, it is so sterile, like looking at a model. The impact is profound as you look and think, "this is me". This is what, under the skin, I look like it. Talk about a complex creature. One see examples of a healthy heart and bad one, a smoker lung with cancer, and a non-smoker. One views what cancer looks like in other organs. One sees many whole human bodies in poses without their skin! Some have different levels to them, allowing one to see "inside".  Some bodies have their organs, some have them removed.

The first of these shows started in 1995, and since then, over 30 million worldwide have seen the Body World exhibit. Gunther von Hagen is the creator, a German, who, back in the late 1960's, was a radical student demanding freedom in East Germany, his home. He was arrested for "political subversion" and jailed for two years. It was during this time in jail he began to think about the process of plastination, which was not perfected until the late 70s or so. It was not until the 90's, that he tried to do a whole human body using the process, requiring 1500 hrs of time per donated body. He now employs 340 people in five labs. Each lab produces something different.

The bottom line is that for many, just going to the Body World exhibit (a separate price) is excellent value because you will spend a good hour there. As far as the Tech museum, I give it two stars, depending on your age group and interests.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 6 years ago

      Yes, worth a visit. One visit.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      Good hub, and it sounds like it's worth a visit.