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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print presentation of pictures that are freely available on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about historic medical images, and when and in what media it's proper to see them. It's one thing to take a beautifully bound book aside into a quiet armchair and have a one on one encounter with with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumour, or the face of a baby wizened by tertiary syphilis. It's another to see the same faces detached from Barnett's context and flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images -supplying scholarship.
The Sick Rose is organized by afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world: cholera, tuberculosis, gout, advanced phases of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' suffering runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---nearly funny in its dreadful extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the method of assembling and later marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a sense of unease" about sending the images off into the whole world, worrying about the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized approach" that could greet the images. (When Wired ran a slideshow of photos 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 images of something that happened to someone somewhere. They aren't imagined."
As historic medical images go digital, scholars and archivists are being forced to consider the benefits of disseminating the undoubtedly important and interesting record of the evolution of medical practice with issues that the images will soon be misunderstood and misused. Making the images accessible will almost surely result in some tone deaf uses, lacking empathy and aspect at best---manipulating the shock value of an at body disfigured face or On the flip side, digitization of the types of images which were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do a lot of good. Such visibility can raise consciousness about past wrongs, facilitate the families of former patients and also connections between historians provide us with a brand new approach to think about our own mortality. (Because there are great arguments on both sides, and because these medical images could be upsetting to some readers, we've decided to put the pictures we're publishing with this specific post behind an electronic scrim, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether to see them.)
Here's one case that shows how much such digitized pictures can steal away from their circumstances. 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 photographers and artists to record his patients' presurgical harms, using the pictures to plan the approach of his team.
These photos ended up on the Web as a portion of a mid-2000s exhibition titled Project Faade (now archived via the Wayback Machine ). The job, 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 basis of an exhibit at London's National Army Museum. The job, Hartley writes on his site , was intended to learn more about the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial surgeries on their lives.
But the digital images had another life after the exhibit had closed. Some photographs from the Job 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, lived with his injury for a year and was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school before being declared to Gillies' attention. Lumley died at age 26, of postoperative complications. (Here's his page on the Project Faade website And here's a picture of the BioShock character in question) Lumley and his fellow patients are now compelled to roam about in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std test nearby Indio. Does this issue, given that many (most?) BioShock players will never understand who these men 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 almost shameful---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they diminish morale. So even if gamers never realize the characters they're seeing on screen were once real men, it can still feel when they are trotted out as digitized monsters like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Indio CA United States Std Test. As Wellcome Library archivist Natalie Walters pointed out in a post on the connection between BioShock and the Gillies Archive: That nearly 100 years after similar images are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a glance into what life must have been like for people who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How brave these men were to allow themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to undergo treatments that often made them seem worse before they appeared better.")
Std test nearest Indio. Dr. Andrew Bamji, the Gillies Archives' curator, told me over email that he approached the game's programmers after finding out about this use and succeeded in contacting one. I pointed out that using identifiable men in the circumstance of the game was an appalling approach to take care of the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no additional such images would be used, and there the matter finished." Where they were disassociated from the names and stories of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade Bamji drew a clear distinction between the utilization of such images in a project like BioShock. Std test near me California. I have no issue with all the display of images in a historic context, as without this folks don't comprehend what war can do."
Should we limit accessibility to upsetting digital images to people who we can be certain will see them in proper context? Michael Sappol , a historian at the U.S. National Library of Medicine who has written about historical and contemporary medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital collections have lately posted a string of hushed medical movies from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which signify what Sappol calls hard issues": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 film made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four kids who are dying of rabies. Fight, the patients convulse, bleed from the mouth; they're inconsolable, even as gloved adult hands reach from off screen to hold them or offer them water.
Sappol doesn't think it should be the job of the librarian or archivist to decide that the public can not handle looking at images that are such. We're stewards of these historical materials," he told me. They don't belong to us. They belong to everybody. ... I would not like to play on behalf of the areas and arrogate to myself the occupation of being some sort of policeman of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy movies from the 1930s, Sappol says, Some of the people in this picture ... look like they certainly don't consent to the procedure, also it's disturbing to see. I could say 'This individual does not desire 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 know?" The interest we feel about such images, he claims, is not shameful, but merely human.
The problem is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is actually the case with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which features medical case files on folks 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 vary widely, but some undoubtedly need their files and images made available for research as a deliberate act to open up argument."Of course, there is not any way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be viewed or remain hidden. Nevertheless, the modern example of thalidomide demonstrates that we must not assume that publication is tantamount to violation.
Nor should we assume that the Web is a serious medium than the bound-and- book that is printed. Historian Miriam Posner, who wrote her dissertation on medical filmmaking, is also a digital historian committed to making her sources freely accessible. Indio, CA 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 photographs that were lobotomy. Neurologist Walter Freeman, who carried out more than 3,500 of the procedures, photographed and patients his filmed before and after their surgeries.
But Posner finally went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by simply asking audiences to choose a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own purposes as broken," she might manage to reveal that these faces contain more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's place wrote that he had recently learned that his grandpa, 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 and I really don't care if it is an image of him having this done I just want and need to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me the way to get to these archives?" If Posner hadn't gone with Science Friday, it might have been considerably tougher for the commenter to locate her; the connection might not have been made. Std Test nearest Indio.
Eventually, there's a spiritual argument for making such pictures accessible. CA United States std test. Even if medical images may be abused, Michael Sappol says, I do not desire that chance to prevent these things that are actually amazing documents of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they are able to redeem us in some way. They could provide us with some sort 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 is a power they have over us, and we've got to recognize 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 Actually the body, as well as the conclusion that we all come to."
However, a vanitas demands space for contemplation---a space the Web appears ill to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was written as the Web was in the procedure for scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that pictures of suffering could be a memento mori " and serve as a still point around which to consider mortality. But she wondered how this could function---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space allowed for being serious is tough to come by." If she believed that about television, books, and art galleries, one wonders what she might have made of Pinterest.
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