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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print display of images that are freely accessible on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about medical images that are historical, and when and in what media it's appropriate to look at 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 tumor, or the face of an infant wizened by tertiary syphilis. It is another to see exactly the same faces detached from Barnett's context and flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated pictures -providing 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. Online, the patients' suffering runs the risk of being seen as classic"---nearly comical in its terrible extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the procedure for assembling and after promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett acknowledged to a sense of unease" about sending the images away into the world, worrying concerning the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized attitude" that could greet the images. (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 pictures of something that occurred to someone somewhere. They aren't envisioned."
As historic medical pictures go digital, scholars and archivists are being compelled to consider the advantages of disseminating the certainly important and interesting record of the development of medical practice with issues that the images will likely be misused and misunderstood. Making the images accessible will almost surely cause some tone-deaf uses, lacking empathy and respect at best---exploiting the shock value of an at body disfigured face or On the flip side, digitization of the types of images that were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do plenty of great. Such visibility can raise consciousness about previous wrongs, ease connections between historians as well as the families of former patients provide us with a fresh strategy to think about our own mortality. (Because there are good arguments on either side, and because these medical images may be upsetting to some readers, we have chosen to place the pictures we are printing with this particular article behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to decide whether to view 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 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 component treating injuries that required maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned artists and photographers to record his patients' presurgical injuries, using the pictures to plan his team's strategy.
These pictures 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 funded 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 graphics that Hartley made with inspiration from these archives afterwards formed the basis of an exhibition at London's National Army Museum. The project, Hartley writes on his website , was intended to learn more about the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial operations on their lives.
But the digital images had another life after the exhibit had closed. Some pictures from the Project Faade archive ended up used in the design of the genetic mutants (splicers") that players of the videogame BioShock must battle. Henry Lumley, one of the patients in the photographs, a pilot trainee, 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 site And here's an image of the BioShock character in question) Lumley and his fellow patients are now compelled to roam around in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std Test near Sun Valley. Does this matter, given that many (most?) BioShock players WOn't ever know 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 nearly shameful---a fate worse than death"---and images of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they reduce morale. So if gamers never understand the characters they are seeing on screen were once real men, it can nevertheless feel like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again when they're trotted out as digitized monsters. Sun Valley, CA, 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 later similar images are used to frighten people in a computer game, gives us a glance into what life must have been like for folks who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How courageous these guys were to permit themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to undergo treatments that frequently made them seem worse before they seemed better.")
Std test nearest Sun Valley. 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 the usage of identifiable guys in the context of the game was an appalling approach to heal the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no additional such images would be used, and there the matter finished." Bamji drew a clear distinction between using such pictures in a project like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and stories of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade. Std test near me California. I have no issue with all the display of images in a historic context, as without this people do not comprehend what war can do."
Should we confine 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 historic and modern medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital collections have recently posted a string of quiet medical pictures from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which signify what Sappol calls hard subjects": 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. The patients convulse, fight, bleed from the mouth; they are inconsolable, even as gloved adult hands reach from off screen to hold them or offer them water.
Sappol doesn't believe it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to decide that the public can not handle looking at such pictures. We're stewards of these historical materials," he told me. They do not belong to us. They belong to everybody. ... I wouldn't like to play 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 movies from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the people in this picture ... seem like they certainly don't consent to the process, plus it's upsetting to see. I could say 'This person 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 understand?" The curiosity we feel about such pictures, he argues, is not shameful, but merely human.
The problem is further complicated by the fact that a few subjects favor visibility. This is the situation with the Thalidomide Trust archive, which contains medical case files on people 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 viewpoints 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 willful action to open up disagreement."Of course, there's no means 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 reveals that we should not presume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we presume 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 freely available. Sun Valley CA Std Test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when asked to collaborate on a slideshow of lobotomy photos 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 surgeries.
But Posner finally went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by asking audiences to take a second look at the before" pictures of patients, which Freeman presented for his own motives as broken," she might manage to reveal that these faces include more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's post wrote that he had recently learned that his grandpa, lobotomized and who he had never met, had been institutionalized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I don't care if it is an image of him having this done I merely want and need to see a picture of him so MUCH, and I haven't seen a picture of my grandfather, never, ever. Can you tell me how to get to these archives?" It might have been considerably tougher for the commenter to find her if Posner hadn't gone ahead with Science Friday; the connection mightn't have been made. Std Test near me Sun Valley.
Eventually, there's a religious argument for making such pictures accessible. CA, United States std test. Even if medical images might be abused, Michael Sappol says, I actually don't 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 could redeem us in some way. They are able to provide us with some type of program of human suffering. ... Looking at them makes life richer and deeper." Barnett, despite his misgivings, agrees on this particular point: There is a power behind these images, there's a power they have over us, and we've got 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, pictures like those in the Sick Rose might remind us: This Is Actually the body, along with the end that we all come to."
However, a vanitas demands space for contemplation---a space the Web looks ill to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was composed as the Web was in the method of scattering photos 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 could work---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space reserved for being serious is hard to come by." One wonders what she might have made of Pinterest if she thought that about television, books, and art galleries.
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