Tattoo Preservation in Amsterdam

Published on December 27, 2013 by Leo Gomon
Preserved tattoo skin

Well, the world keeps getting weirder and weirder. It’s fairly common knowledge that Amsterdam is a pretty forward thinking and progressive region of the world; Each year, thousands upon thousands of tourists flock to Holland’s red light district for the country’s liberal marijuana laws and open and legal prostitution business. On top of that, Amsterdam has emerged as a storied tattoo city with immense talent and creative output. Sadly, the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum was forced to close in November of 2012, but Amsterdam recently made tattoo headlines in a more morbid way.


Peter van der Helm


Peter van der Helm (pictured above), a Dutch entrepreneur and tattoo shop owner, has hatched out a new business plan that will preserve the tattoos of the recently deceased. Sounds like a surrealistic macabre image, but plenty of tattoo enthusiasts are already jumping on board to sign away their skin in a will, pay a few hundred euros, and have their body art live on post mortem.  Though this isn't a "brand new" idea, as tattoo preservation exists, van der Helm's thorough process will drastically increase the quality of preserved tattoos, compared to the current state of the practice.  


“Everybody with tattoos has that idea. It’s not a new idea, we just found a way to actually do it.” - Peter van der Helm


That may be true; I certainly speak for more than myself when I say that it’s a romantic idea, but plenty of questions arise, such as the actual procedure of skin removal. The answer? The process is to take place within an ideal 48 hour window after death, where a licensed Dutch Pathologist removes the tattoo from the body, packages it in formaldehyde, freezes it, and sends it to a laboratory outside of the Netherlands. After the initial removal, the skin goes through an extensive 12 week procedure that extracts it’s water content and replaces it with silicone, rendering the skin into a rubber-like film.


At this point, there are about 30 prospects that have already willed their skin away, with specific instructions of what to remove, who to leave it to, and all the associated instructions. It’s new, exciting, and will certainly stir up a little controversy, but it’s a small price to pay for a small slice of immortality. 


An example of current preserved tattooed skin; something van der Helm's business aims to improve.


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