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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print display of pictures that are accessible on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about medical images that are historic, and when and in what media it's appropriate to see them. It's one thing to take a beautifully bound book apart into a silent armchair and have a one-on-one encounter with all the face of a baby wizened by tertiary syphilis, or with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumour. It is another to see exactly the same faces detached from the circumstance of Barnett and flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated pictures -providing scholarship.
Afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world organize the Sick Rose: gout, cholera, tuberculosis, advanced stages of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' suffering runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---almost funny in its terrible extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the method of assembling and after promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett acknowledged to a sense of unease" about sending the pictures away into the whole world, worrying regarding the kitsch, understanding, and emptily ironized attitude" that could greet the pictures. (When Wired ran a slideshow of pictures from Sick Rose in May, for example, it was headlined Awesomely Gross Medical Illustrations From the 19th Century") Over Skype, Barnett told me: These are all images of something that happened to someone somewhere. They aren't imagined."
As historical medical pictures go digital, scholars and archivists are being compelled to consider the advantages of disseminating the interesting and unquestionably significant record of the evolution of medical practice with concerns the images will likely be misunderstood and misused. Making the images available will almost surely cause some tone deaf uses and aspect at best---manipulating the shock value of a disfigured face or body at worst. On the flip side, digitization of the sorts of images that were once accessible only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do a great deal of good. Such visibility can raise consciousness about past wrongs, ease the families of former patients and connections between historians , even supply us with a brand new method to think of our own mortality. (Because there are great arguments on either side, and because these medical images can be disturbing to some readers, we have chosen to put the pictures we're printing with this specific article behind a digital scrim, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether to see them.)
Here's one case that demonstrates how far such digitized photographs can slip from their contexts. Art historian Suzannah Biernoff has written about the fate of a group of patient pictures 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 specific unit treating injuries that needed maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned artists and photographers to document his patients' presurgical harms, using the images to plan his team's approach.
These photos ended up on the Web as part of a mid-2000s exhibit titled Project Faade (now archived through the Wayback Machine ). The job, which was financed by the Wellcome Trust's SciArt Production Award, was a cooperation 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 visuals that Hartley made from these archives with inspiration afterwards formed the basis of an exhibit at London's National Army Museum. The job, Hartley writes on his site , was meant to explore the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial surgeries on their lives.
But the digital images had another life after the exhibition had closed. 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 pictures, a pilot trainee, Henry Lumley, was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school and lived with his injury for a year before being declared to Gillies' attention. Lumley died of postoperative complications, at age 26. (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 roam around in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std Test nearest Tumacacori. Does this issue, given that many (most?) BioShock players WOn't ever understand who these guys were in real life? Biernoff writes that British culture during the World War I perceived death in battle as glorious, but facial mutilation was seen as almost shameful---a fate worse than death"---and images of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they diminish morale. So if gamers never understand that the characters they are seeing on screen were once actual men, it can nevertheless feel when they're trotted out as digitized monsters like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Tumacacori, AZ 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 almost 100 years after similar pictures are used to frighten people in a computer game, gives us a peek into what life should have been like for individuals who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How brave these guys were to allow themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to experience treatments that frequently made them seem worse before they looked better.")
Std test nearby Tumacacori. Dr. Andrew Bamji, the Gillies Archives' curator, told me over e-mail that he approached the game's developers after finding out about this use and succeeded in contacting one. I pointed out that the usage of identifiable guys in the circumstance of the game was an appalling method to treat the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no further such images would be utilized, and there the matter ended." Where they were disassociated from the names and stories of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade Bamji drew a clear distinction between the usage of such pictures in a job like BioShock. Std test in Arizona. I don't have any problem with all the display of images in a historical context, as without this folks don't understand what war can do."
Should we confine accessibility 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 recently posted a run of quiet medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which symbolize what Sappol calls challenging themes": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 movie made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four kids that are dying of rabies. The patients convulse, struggle, bleed from the mouth; they are inconsolable, even as offer them water or gloved adult hands reach from off screen to hold them.
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 play on behalf of the subjects and arrogate to myself the occupation of being some type of officer of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy movies from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the men and women in this picture ... seem like they surely don't consent to the procedure, plus it's disturbing to see. I could say 'This man does not need to be on camera, they are being humiliated.' But this is something we can learn from. If we never get to see this, who gets to understand?" The fascination we feel about such images, he claims, isn't shameful, but merely human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is the case with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which includes medical case files on individuals produced withsevere birth defects after their mothers took the drug thalidomide to relieve symptoms of morning sickness in the late 1950s-early-1960s," Wellcome archivist Helen Wakely wrote to me. The views of thalidomiders themselves on what should occur with their case files fluctuate widely, but some undoubtedly need their files and pictures made available for research as a purposeful action to open up discussion."Of course, there is no way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be viewed or stay concealed. Nevertheless, the modern case of thalidomide reveals that we must not suppose 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 committed to making her sources publicly accessible. Tumacacori AZ Std Test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when asked to collaborate with a producer at NPR's show Science Friday on a slideshow of lobotomy photos. Neurologist Walter Freeman, who carried out more than 3,500 of the processes, photographed and filmed his patients before and after their operations.
But Posner ultimately went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by asking observers to choose a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own motives as broken," she may have the ability to reveal that these faces include more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the place of Posner wrote that he'd recently learned that his grandfather, who he had never met, had been institutionalized and lobotomized in West Virginia, where Freeman did some of his work. The commenter wrote: I don't care if it is a graphic of him having this done I only desire and need to see a picture of him so MUCH, and I have never seen an image of my grandpa, never, ever. Can you tell me how to get to these archives?" If Posner had not gone ahead with Science Friday, it might have been considerably more difficult for the commenter to locate her; the connection mightn't have been made. Std test closest to Tumacacori.
Eventually, there's a spiritual argument for making such images accessible. AZ United States std test. Even if medical pictures might be misused, Michael Sappol says, I really don't want that chance to prevent these things that are actually amazing documents of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they can redeem us in some way. They could supply us with some type of program of human suffering. ... Looking at them makes life richer and deeper." Barnett, despite his misgivings, agrees on this point: There's a power behind these images, there's a power they have over us, and we have to accept or honor this at some point." He compares the images to a lay 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 end that we all come to."
Still, a vanitas needs space for contemplation---a space the Web seems ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's closing book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was written as the Web was in the process of scattering photos to the four winds. Sontag wrote that pictures of suffering could be a memento mori " and function as a still point around which to consider mortality. But she wondered how this may work---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space reserved for being serious is tough to come by." One wonders what she might have made of Pinterest if she believed that about books, art galleries, and television.
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