The Survey for the exhibition on “The Universe Within”

conducted in San Francisco

US-China Cultural Exchange Group





“The Universe Within”, a current exhibit, and a very popular show at the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco, reveals human body structure.  The reason a lot of people like to go and study the exhibit is because they can see actual structures of the human body.  For some of the visitors, this is their first chance to study actual structures which are usually reserved for the medical profession. According to the news media, the exhibit is controversial, and has received a mixed response.

In the middle of June 2005, the US-China Cultural Exchange Group conducted a survey to obtain feedback from all the visitors to “The Universe Within” during a specific time period.  This survey revealed who visited the exhibit, and how these same people responded to the exhibit.  




The survey consisted of the following seven questions.


  1. Do you think you better understand the human body after visiting the Exhibit?
  1. Is viewing this exhibit one of the better ways to understand the human body's structure?
  1. Did this exhibit help you to understand human health and disease?
  1. Do you feel promoted to talk to your doctor or health care physician about your body and lifestyles?
  2. Would it be beneficial to view more pathological samples in this exhibit?
  3. Do you think that it is appropriate to show real human bodies and organs to the public for educational purposes?
  4. What areas of the exhibit do you feel need improvement?


On the questionnaire, the visitors were also asked to provide their names (optional), the city of their residence, and their education levels. The gender was recognized by giving different color survey forms, females received pink forms, and males received white forms. 




To avoid pre-selection of the survey people, the survey forms were given to everyone who bought a ticket for the exhibition from June 11 through June 15, which covers a weekend and three weekdays.


All of the data was measured three times, and the standard error was <1%.






 1.      Recovery of Survey Forms


There were 1683 survey forms given to the visitors from June 11 to June 15.  Of that number 953 are female and 730 are male. During this period of time, none of the visitors who were guests of the exhibit were provided with survey forms. Twelve-hundred and forty-eight forms were returned.  The return rate is ~73.8% in total, 76.4% for the females, and 71.23% for the males.


The return rate of this survey is higher then the majority of other social surveys.  There proved to be no significant difference between female and male responses.  Since three- fourths of the visitors showed an interest and willingness to return their feedbacks, the survey result is reliable and convincing.




2. Know Human Body Better

As shown in (Fig. 1), about 95% of the audience, both female and male, thought they knew the human body structure better after visiting the exhibition. The exhibition helped them to gain more knowledge of human anatomy.

To see the real human body specimens prepared by special techniques is a good way to learn the human body structure. This is confirmed by almost 100% of the audience’s answer (Fig. 2). This result indicates all of the audience thought the direct observation of human body specimens is a good way to learn human body structure. In fact, this is true. Even for medical students learning of the human body anatomy, just reading textbooks and looking at an anatomical atlas is far from comprehensive. This exhibition made it possible for the audience to visualize the intricacies of the human body. Visualization provided an excellent opportunity to study the human body structure.

Normally, the real human body, or organ specimens, can only be preserved and used in a medical school or hospital environment for teaching and research. Interestingly, 95% of the audience thought it was appropriate to show the specimens of real human bodies and organs to the general public for educational purposes (Fig. 3).


3. People long to learn more Human
Body Knowledge

This survey shows, most people want to get more information about the human body structure and it’s functions. People not only like to learn of the normal structure of human body, but they also like to see pathological specimens. As shown in (Fig. 4), about 95% of the visitors had hoped to view pathological specimens in the exhibit. Several people wrote on their forms that they would never smoke again, after looking at the specimens of the smoked lungs. Some people suggested displaying the specimens to show the side effects of drug addiction.

This observed pathological change of the human body helped the visitors to understand human disease and the importance of health care. Undoubtedly, this exhibition has given the visitors some knowledge to better understand human health and disease. Figure 5 shows that about 60% of the audiences have benefited from this exhibition. Observation of real human bodies has resulted in a better understanding of human disease.

Another interesting result of this exhibit is the increased communication of the visitors with their doctors, despite the fact that only 50% were so inspired (Fig. 6). This increased communication is a very important benefit provided by the exhibit. We all recognize that communication and understanding between doctors and patients is an integral part of health care. This percentage may significantly increase if several areas are improved in the exhibit. One possible way to improve the exhibit would be to provide detailed explanations for the human body specimens. The answers from question 7 clearly demonstrate this. More than 50% of the visitors hope to get more detailed explanations for the specimens (Fig. 7)

4.      Who Went to This Exhibit?


An interesting aspect about the exhibit is what it revealed about the visitors, themselves. As shown in Figure 8, a majority of the visitors, an overwhelming 80%, are highly educated people, regardless of gender. This easily raised the question, “Why would highly educated people like to see the exhibition”?



There are several possible reasons that come to mind:

  1. These people may have stable jobs, and the ticket price of may not be a concern.

  2. These people tend to pay more attention to their health, and would like to know
    more about their bodies.




This survey was based on the feedbacks collected from over a thousand people. The survey followed the random principle, that is, the people were not pre-selected. Thus, the data from this survey should be representive and reliable.

In this survey, almost 100% of the audiences gave positive feedbacks on the exhibit. The participants thought the exhibition gave people a very good chance to learn more about the human body. This leaning is a direct result of observing the actual human body structure.

If everyone knows exactly where their organs are located, and what relationships exist between them, this knowledge will be a great benefit for human health care. This is simply because it will enhance communication between patients and doctors. This knowledge and communication is a simple but important fact, isn’t it? To use an analogy, the human body is like a machine and organs are the parts. If a person doesn’t take care of all the parts in a machine, and maintain them properly, the machine will constantly break. According to the survey, most people really wanted to know more about the structures of themselves, and they wanted more information of the pathological specimens. The exhibition management is currently planning to add more explanations about the specimens. This will definitely help enhance the exhibit.

Surprisingly, 95% of the people thought the real human body should be displayed to the public for education purposes. The plastination technique has made this educational approach possible. There is no bad smell, nor toxicity involved with plastination. This technique has replaced the traditional methods in which the human bodies were kept in formalin, a fixative with a strong bad smell and toxicity. Many a biology student has experienced the “smell”. In the return forms, the response indicated that showing real human body specimens to public for educational purposes is acceptable. Most people did not care about the nationalities of the specimens. They believe that human bodies and specimens for educational purposes have no nationality.

Most visitors thought this to be a very good exhibit. Many people offered ideas for improvements to the exhibition in the guest book. The major suggestion was to request more detailed information.

Another suggestion from this survey was to reduce the ticket price maybe once a week or once a month, in an effort to attract more people with lower education levels or lower income.



Summary and Conclusions

  • Most people responded positively to this survey.  The return rate of the survey forms is over 73%.
  • More than 80% of the audience educational level is college and above.
  • Close to 100% of the people benefited from this exhibition.
  • More than 95% of the audience thought the exhibition was a good opportunity to learn more about human body.

  • About 80% of the audience wanted to get more explanation and detail information.

  • Based on the above facts, the conclusion from this survey is that The Universe Within is an excellent exhibition.



Note:   US-China Cultural Exchange Group is a non-profit organization, registered in California, USA. The mission of this organization is to promote cultural exchanges between United States and China, especially between the students of two countries.




Copyright © 2005 The Universe Within. All rights reserved.