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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print display of pictures that are freely accessible digitally on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about medical pictures that are historic, and when and in what media it's proper to see them. It is one thing to take a beautifully bound book apart into a quiet armchair and have a one on one encounter with the face of an infant wizened by tertiary syphilis, or with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumor. 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 the context of Barnett -supplying scholarship.
The Sick Rose is formed by afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world: cholera, tuberculosis, gout, advanced phases of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' anguish runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---nearly comical in its horrible extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the method of assembling and after marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett acknowledged to a sense of unease" about sending the pictures off into the entire world, worrying regarding the kitsch, understanding, and emptily ironized approach" that could greet the images. (When Wired ran a slideshow of photographs 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're not envisioned."
As historical medical images go digital, scholars and archivists are being forced to consider the advantages of disseminating the interesting and unquestionably important record of the progression of medical practice with issues the pictures will probably be misused and misunderstood. Making the images available will almost surely lead to some tone-deaf uses, lacking empathy and regard at best---using the shock value of an at body disfigured face or worst. On the other hand, digitization of the kinds of images which were once accessible only to researchers with the means to travel to archives can do a great deal of good. Such visibility can raise awareness about previous wrongs, facilitate the families of former patients and also connections between historians supply us with a brand new strategy to think about our own mortality. (Because there are excellent arguments on both sides, and because these medical images may be upsetting to some readers, we've chosen to put the pictures we're publishing with this specific post behind a digital scrim, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether to view them.)
Here's one case that shows how far such digitized photos can slip 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 particular component treating injuries that necessitated maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to record his patients' presurgical harms, using the pictures to plan the approach of his team.
These photographs 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 graphics that Hartley made with inspiration from these archives afterwards formed the foundation of an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. The job, Hartley writes on his website , was intended to learn more about the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial operations on their lives.
Nevertheless, the digital images had another life following 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. Henry Lumley, one of many patients in the photos, a pilot trainee, was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school and lived with his harm 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 site And here's a picture of the BioShock character in question) Lumley and his fellow patients are now forced to drift around in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std Test closest to El Granada. Does this issue, given that many (most?) BioShock players will never 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 pictures of soldiers injured in this way were censored, lest they reduce morale. So even if gamers never realize that the characters they are seeing on screen were once real guys, it can nevertheless feel like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again when they're trotted out as digitized monsters. El Granada CA, United States std test. As Wellcome Library archivist Natalie Walters pointed out in a post on the connection between BioShock and also the Gillies Archive: That nearly 100 years later similar images are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a glimpse into what life should have been like for folks who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How courageous these guys were to permit themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to experience treatments that often made them seem worse before they looked better.")
Std Test nearby El Granada. 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 men in the circumstance of the game was an appalling approach to treat the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no further such pictures would be utilized, and there the matter ended." Bamji drew a clear distinction between the usage of such images in a project like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and the Project Faade of Hartley. Std test closest to California. I don't have any issue with all the display of images in a historical context, as without this people don't understand what war can do."
Should we limit accessibility to upsetting digital images to individuals who we can be certain will perceive them in appropriate context? Michael Sappol , a historian at the U.S. National Library of Medicine who has written about historical and modern medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital collections have recently posted a series of hushed medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which symbolize what Sappol calls difficult 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 decide that the people can't handle looking at such images. We are 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 job of being some sort of policeman of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy pictures from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the folks in this picture ... look like they certainly don't consent to the procedure, and it is disturbing to see. I really could say 'This individual does not want to be on camera, they're being humiliated.' But this is from. If we never get to see this, who gets to know?" The interest we feel about such pictures, he contends, isn't black, but merely human.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is the situation with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which comprises medical case files on people born withsevere birth defects after their mothers took the drug thalidomide to ease 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 happen with their case files fluctuate widely, but some definitely need their files and pictures made accessible for research as a deliberate action to open up discourse."Of course, there's no way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be viewed or stay hidden. Nevertheless, the modern case of thalidomide demonstrates that we must not presume that publication is tantamount to violation.
Nor should we presume that the Web is a serious medium than the bound-and- printed book. Historian Miriam Posner, who wrote her dissertation on medical filmmaking, is also a digital historian dedicated to making her sources publicly accessible. El Granada CA std test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when asked to collaborate on a slideshow of pictures that were lobotomy with a producer at NPR's show Science Friday. Neurologist Walter Freeman, who carried out more than 3,500 of the procedures, photographed and patients his filmed before and after their operations.
But Posner finally went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by asking audiences to take a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own purposes as broken," she may manage 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, who he'd never met, had been institutionalized and lobotomized in West Virginia, where Freeman did some of his work. The commenter wrote: I have not seen a picture of my grandfather, never, ever, and I do not care if it is a picture of him having this done I only desire and desire to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me how to get to these archives?" It might have been considerably tougher for the commenter to locate her, if Posner had not gone ahead with Science Friday; the connection mightn't have been made. Std Test nearby El Granada.
Finally, there is a religious argument for making such images accessible. CA, United States std test. Even if medical pictures might be misused, Michael Sappol says, I actually don't want that possibility to prevent these things that are actually amazing files of the human encounter from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they can redeem us in some way. They can supply us with some form 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 have to accept or honor this at some point." He compares the images 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 Actually the body, and the conclusion that we all come to."
However, a vanitas demands space for contemplation---a space the Web seems ill to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was written as the Web was in the process of scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photographs of suffering could be a memento mori " and serve 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 challenging to come by." One wonders what she may have made of Pinterest if she thought that about art galleries, publications, and television.
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