Would You Donate Your Tattooed Skin To A Museum After Death?

sarah_calavera in Stories

A bodysuit tattoo takes a lot of money and pain. This Japanese scientist thinks it would be a shame to let it go to waste after death.

It might sound like something from the FBI files from the evidence found at Ed Gein's quiet little farmhouse, but The Medical Pathology Museum at Tokyo University has an extensive collection of preserved human skins on display. Many of them are large full body tattooed pieces donated after death. Dr. Fukushi was a pathologist interested in the art of Japanese tattooing since 1926 and was the man responsible for starting the collection.

Dr. Fukushi at The Medical Pathology Museum at Tokyo University
Dr. Fukushi at The Medical Pathology Museum at Tokyo University

He would remove the tattooed skin from donated bodies and put them through a preservation process, stretch them and display them in glass cases. His fascination was so great he even offered to pay for people to complete their bodysuits on the condition they'd donate their skin upon death. There are 105 skinned items (not all of them tattooed) on display at this museum.

Dr. Fukushi preparing some specimens
Dr. Fukushi preparing some specimens
One of the impressive preserved bodysuits in the collection
One of the impressive preserved bodysuits in the collection
Tattooed skin
Tattooed skin

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One of the skin suits on display at the Tokyo Museum
One of the skin suits on display at the Tokyo Museum
Most of the specimens on display are traditional Japanese style tattoos
Most of the specimens on display are traditional Japanese style tattoos

Dr. Fukushi used two different methods of preservation; dry and wet. This is where it gets a little grim and graphic. If you've got a weak stomach you might want to skip this part. The body is delicately skinned and peeled off then scraped of nerves and tissue, then is stretched out and pinned to dry. The skin shrinks and the edges appear "frilled" some chemicals may be used to treat the skin. With the wet preparation the skin is removed in the same way only preserved immersed in either glycerin or formalin alcohol.

Dr. Fukushi checking his specimens at work
Dr. Fukushi checking his specimens at work

Even though this is a fascinating subject for many, public exhibits of human skin are of course extremely controversial. The museum in Tokyo is not the only place to display tattooed skin post mortem and there is some speculation around exhibits like this about how the skins were acquired, some say possibly under suspicious circumstances. There is always the moral and ethical element in question. However, there are real people out there who are actually willing to donate their tattooed flesh after they are gone so their art will live on.

In 2009 Geoff Ostling was approached by a museum curator with an odd request... would he be interested in donating his skin after he passes away. Mr. Ostling is almost totally covered in an elaborate bodysuit tattoo designed by himself and his tattoo artist eX de Medici. The tattoo features rare flora from his native Australia in full color and is truly a beautiful piece of work. His tattoo was mostly done by prominent Aussie artist eX de Medici who now sells her paintings for thousands of dollars.

Geoff's bodysuit is bold and colorful and truly unique it would be a shame for it to die with him
Geoff's bodysuit is bold and colorful and truly unique it would be a shame for it to die with him
Tattooed bodysuit
Tattooed bodysuit

Mr. Ostling is very clued up about what is going to happen with his skin when he eventually passes on. Unlike the bodysuit specimens in Tokyo which are missing their extremities, Geoff wants his entire body to be preserved and displayed to "stand complete".

Geoff Ostling
Geoff Ostling

Check out this short excerpt from the documentary "Skin" where Geoff Ostling talks about his tattoo experiences and his plans with the National Gallery of Australia. What do you guys think would you consider donating your tattooed skin for generations to admire?

sarah_calavera

@Sarah Calavera

Skull obsessed tattoo fanatic, writer for Tattoodo, voice actor and visual artist who loves metal and headbanging. Inspired by Neil Gaiman, Tool, horror & the macabre.

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