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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print display of images that are accessible on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about historical medical pictures, and when and in what media it's appropriate to view them. It's one thing to take a beautifully bound book aside into a silent armchair and have a one-on-one encounter with all with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumour, or the face of a baby wizened by tertiary syphilis. It is another to see exactly the same faces flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images and detached from Barnett's context -supplying scholarship.
Afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world organize the Sick Rose: cholera, tuberculosis, gout, advanced phases of syphilis. Online, the patients' suffering runs the danger of being seen as classic"---almost comical in its terrible extremity and its distance from our own time. In a blog post about the process of assembling and later marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a sense of unease" about sending the images away into the world, worrying regarding the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized attitude" that could greet the pictures. (When Wired ran a slideshow of photographs from Sick Rose in May, for instance, it was headlined Awesomely Gross Medical Illustrations From the 19th Century") Over Skype, Barnett told me: These are all pictures of something that happened to someone somewhere. They're not envisioned."
As historical medical images go digital, scholars and archivists are being forced to weigh the benefits of disseminating the definitely significant and fascinating record of the development of medical practice with concerns that the pictures will soon be misused and misunderstood. Making the images available will almost certainly cause some tone deaf uses, lacking empathy and respect at best---exploiting the shock value of an at body disfigured face or worst. On the flip side, digitization of the sorts of images that were once accessible only to researchers with the means to travel to archives can do lots of good. Such visibility can raise awareness about past wrongs, facilitate links between historians as well as the families of former patients provide us with a brand new approach to think of our own mortality. (Because there are great arguments on either side, and because these medical images can be upsetting to some readers, we have chosen to set the photos we are publishing with this specific article behind an electronic scrim, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether to view them.)
Here's one instance that demonstrates how far such digitized photos can steal away from their contexts. Art historian Suzannah Biernoff has written about the fate of a group of patient images from the Gillies Archives These are the World War I-era records of Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, in the U.K., where plastic surgeon Harold Gillies headed a special unit treating injuries that needed maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to record his patients' presurgical harms, using the pictures to plan the approach of his team.
These pictures ended up on the Web as part of a mid-2000s exhibit titled Project Faade (now archived through the Wayback Machine ). The project, which was funded by the Wellcome Trust's SciArt Production Award, was a collaboration among artist Paddy Hartley; Dr. Andrew Bamji, a rheumatologist who acts as curator of the Gillies Archives; and Dr. Ian Thompson, a surgeon and designer of facial implants. The art that Hartley made from these archives with inspiration later formed the foundation of an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. The project, Hartley writes on his site , was intended to learn more about the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial surgeries on their lives.
Following the exhibit had closed nevertheless, the digital images had another life. Some photographs from the Project Faade archive ended up used in the plan of the genetic mutants (splicers") that players of the videogame BioShock must battle. Among the patients in the photographs, Henry Lumley, a pilot trainee, was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school and lived with his harm for a year before being admitted to Gillies' care. Lumley died at age 26, of postoperative complications. (Here's his page on the Project Faade website And here's an image of the BioShock character in question) Lumley and his fellow patients are now forced to wander about in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std test in Malvern. Does this matter, given that many (most?) BioShock players will never know who these guys were in real life? Biernoff writes that British culture during the World War I perceived departure in battle as glorious, but facial mutilation was seen as nearly shameful---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they decrease morale. So if gamers never realize that the characters they're seeing on screen were once real men, it can nevertheless feel when they're trotted out as digitized monsters like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Malvern AL, United States std test. As Wellcome Library archivist Natalie Walters pointed out in a post on the connection between BioShock along with the Gillies Archive: That nearly 100 years after comparable pictures are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a glimpse into what life must have been like for folks who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How courageous these guys were to allow themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to undergo treatments that frequently made them appear worse before they seemed better.")
Std test closest to Malvern. Dr. Andrew Bamji, the Gillies Archives' curator, told me over email that he approached the game's developers after finding out about this use and succeeded in contacting one. I pointed out that using identifiable men in the context of the game was an appalling method to take care of the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no additional such images would be utilized, and there the matter finished." Bamji drew a clear distinction between the use of such images in a project like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and stories of the patients, and the Project Faade of Hartley. Std test nearest Alabama. I don't have any problem with the display of images in a historical context, as without this folks do not understand what war can do."
Should we restrict access to upsetting digital images to folks who we can be certain will perceive them in proper context? Michael Sappol , a historian at the U.S. National Library of Medicine who has written about historic and contemporary medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital groups have lately posted a number of quiet medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which signify what Sappol calls tough themes": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 film made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four children that are dying of rabies. Struggle, the patients convulse, bleed from the mouth; they are inconsolable, even as gloved adult hands reach from off screen to hold them or offer them water.
Sappol does not believe it should be the job of the librarian or archivist to determine that the public can't handle looking at such pictures. We're stewards of these historical materials," he told me. They don't belong to us. They belong to everybody. ... I wouldn't like to act on behalf of the areas and arrogate to myself the occupation of being some sort of officer of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy films from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the men and women in this movie ... seem like they certainly do not consent to the process, also it's disturbing to see. I really could say 'This person does not desire to be on camera, they are being humiliated.' But this is from. If we never get to see this, who gets to understand?" The interest we feel about such images, he contends, isn't black, but simply human.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is actually the situation with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which contains medical case files on folks produced withsevere birth defects after their mothers took the drug thalidomide to alleviate symptoms of morning sickness in the late 1950s-early-1960s," Wellcome archivist Helen Wakely wrote to me. The perspectives of thalidomiders themselves on what should happen with their case files fluctuate widely, but some undoubtedly want their files and images made available for research as a willful action to open up debate."Of course, there's not any way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they'd prefer to be observed or stay concealed. Nevertheless, the modern example of thalidomide shows that we must not presume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we suppose that the Web is a less serious medium than the bound-and- book that is printed. Historian Miriam Posner, who wrote her dissertation on medical filmmaking, is additionally a digital historian dedicated to making her sources publicly accessible. Malvern, AL std test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when requested to collaborate with a producer at NPR's show Science Friday on a slideshow of pictures that were lobotomy. Neurologist Walter Freeman, who carried out more than 3,500 of the processes, photographed and filmed his patients before and after their surgeries.
But Posner finally went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by simply asking viewers to choose a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own goals as broken," she may be able to reveal that these faces comprise more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the place of Posner wrote that he had lately learned that his grandfather, lobotomized and who he had never met, had been institutionalized in West Virginia, where Freeman did some of his work. The commenter wrote: I actually don't care if it is a graphic of him having this done I merely want and desire to see a picture of him so MUCH, and I haven't seen an image of my grandfather, never, ever. Can you tell me the best way to get to these archives?" It might have been much tougher for the commenter to find her, if Posner hadn't gone ahead with Science Friday; the connection might not have been made. Std test nearest Malvern.
Finally, there is a spiritual argument for making such images available. AL United States Std Test. Even if medical pictures might be misused, Michael Sappol says, I don't want that possibility to prevent these things that are really amazing records of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they are able to redeem us in some way. They are able to provide us with some kind of curriculum of human suffering. ... Looking at them makes life richer and deeper." Barnett, despite his misgivings, concurs on this point: There is a power behind these pictures, there is a power they have over us, and we've got to accept or honor this at some point." He compares the pictures to a laic vanitas ," referring to the 17th century Dutch paintings of skulls and other symbols of decay that were meant to remind the viewer of human mortality. For modern viewers, Barnett says, images like those in the Sick Rose might remind us: This is the body, along with the conclusion that we all come to."
Still, a vanitas needs space for contemplation---a space the Web appears ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's closing book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was composed as the Web was in the method of scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photos of suffering might be a memento mori " and function as a still point around which to contemplate mortality. But she wondered how this could work---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space allowed for being serious is difficult to come by." One wonders what she may have made of Pinterest if she thought that about art galleries, books, and television.
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