Plastination: The Art of Preservation

Plastination is the process of impregnating animal, human or plant tissues with a variety of plastic or silicone products to render the tissues odor-free, dry and permanently preserved for educational and instructional purposes. The process was invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977 at the University of Heidelberg, Germany and made popular through his many Body Worlds exhibitions around the globe. 

Beginning in 2007, members of Grand Valley State University (GVSU) began studying plastination and investigating the opportunity to create a lab at GVSU. That became a reality in 2013, and since then, over 300 specimens have been plastinated for use in a variety of teaching roles. This exhibition tells the story of plastination at GVSU and walks viewers through the process and use of plastinates. It brings together over 20 animal specimens from the lab – currently the only plastination lab in Michigan.


Mathias Alten Paintings

Two students reviewing anatomy through use of plastinated leg. 

Silicone tank

Student applying silicone to a new tank

Draining squids

Octopuses draining

Dissecting bat

Student dissecting bat during plastination process


Want to know more about plastination and its history? Check out these resources:

Plastination Storage

Plastination storage


Blue Wall Gallery
July 13 - December 14, 2018

Richard M. DeVos Center, Building B
Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus

Grand Rapids, MI 49504


Red Wall Gallery
January 7 – June 21, 2019

130 Lake Ontario Hall 
Allendale, Michigan 49401 

Gordon Gallery Hours:

Free and open to the public.

Gallery hours are reflective of the Richard M. Devos Center and Lake Ontario Hall, including changes made due to semester, holiday, or campus-wide event.

Closed on holiday weekends:  
New Years, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day,Thanksgiving, and Christmas.


For special accommodation, please call:

For exhibition details and media inquires, please email:
Joel Zwart, Curator of Exhibitions

For learning and engagement opportunities, please email:
Stacey Burns, Programs Manager

Page last modified January 7, 2019