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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print presentation of pictures that are available on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about medical pictures that are historic, 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 with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumour, or the face of an infant wizened by tertiary syphilis. It's another to see the same faces flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated pictures and detached from the context of Barnett -providing scholarship.
The Sick Rose is organized by afflictions, the majority of which are now rare in the Western world: cholera, gout, tuberculosis, advanced stages of syphilis. Online, the patients' suffering runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---nearly amusing in its dreadful extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the procedure for assembling and later marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a sense of unease" about sending the images away into the world, worrying concerning the kitsch, understanding, and emptily ironized attitude" that could greet the pictures. (When Wired ran a slideshow of photos 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're not imagined."
As historical medical images go digital, scholars and archivists are being compelled to consider the advantages of disseminating the interesting and unquestionably significant record of the progression of medical practice with issues the images will soon be misunderstood and misused. Making the pictures available will almost certainly result in some tone deaf uses, lacking empathy and regard at best---exploiting the shock value of a disfigured face or body at worst. On the other hand, digitization of the sorts of pictures which were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do a lot of good. Such visibility can raise awareness about previous wrongs, facilitate links between historians and the families of former patients provide us with a new strategy to think about our own mortality. (Because there are good arguments on either side, and because these medical images could be upsetting to some readers, we've decided to place the photos we are printing with this specific post behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to choose whether to view them.)
Here's one case that shows how far such digitized pictures can steal 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 particular component treating injuries that demanded maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned artists and photographers to document his patients' presurgical injuries, using the images 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 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 visuals that Hartley made with inspiration from these archives afterwards formed the foundation of an exhibit at the National Army Museum in London. The endeavor, Hartley writes on his site , was intended to explore the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial surgeries on their lives.
After the exhibition had closed nevertheless, the digital images had another life. Some photographs from the Endeavor Faade archive ended up used in the plan of the genetic mutants (splicers") that players of the videogame BioShock must battle. One of many patients in the pictures, a pilot trainee, Henry Lumley, lived with his injury for a year and was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school before being admitted to Gillies' care. 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 amusement of gamers.
Std Test nearest Vidal Junction. Does this matter, 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 death in battle as glorious, but facial mutilation was seen as nearly shameful---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this way were censored, lest they decrease morale. So even if gamers never understand the characters they are seeing on screen were once real guys, it can nevertheless feel when they're trotted out as digitized monsters like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Vidal Junction 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 comparable images are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a peek into what life must have been like for individuals who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How courageous these guys were to allow themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to get treatments that frequently made them look worse before they seemed better.")
Std Test closest to Vidal Junction. 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 guys 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 pictures would be utilized, and there the matter ended." Bamji drew a clear distinction between the use of such images in a job like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and the Project Faade of Hartley. Std Test nearby California. I don't have any issue with the display of pictures 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 sure will see 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 sets have recently posted a run of quiet medical movies from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which represent what Sappol calls difficult issues": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 movie made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four kids who are dying of rabies. The patients convulse, struggle, 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 think it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to determine that the public can not handle looking at images that are such. We're stewards of these historical materials," he told me. They do not 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 kind of officer of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy films from the 1930s, Sappol says, Some of the people in this picture ... seem like they surely do not consent to the process, plus it is upsetting to see. I really could say 'This man 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 curiosity we feel about such images, he asserts, is not shameful, but simply human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is the situation with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which contains medical case files on individuals born 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 views of thalidomiders themselves on what should happen with their case files fluctuate widely, but some undoubtedly want their files and pictures made accessible for research as a purposeful act to open up discussion."Of course, there's not any method to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they'd prefer to be observed or remain concealed. But the modern example of thalidomide reveals that we shouldn't presume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we assume that the Web is a serious medium than the bound-and- printed book. Historian Miriam Posner, who wrote her dissertation on medical filmmaking, is additionally a digital historian dedicated to making her sources publicly available. Vidal Junction 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 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 operations.
But Posner finally went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by asking audiences to choose a second look at the before" images 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 lately discovered 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 haven't seen a picture of my grandpa, never and I really don't care if it is a graphic of him having this done I need and only want to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me the best way to get to these archives?" If Posner had not gone with Science Friday, it might have been much more challenging for the commenter to locate her; the connection might not have been made. Std Test closest to Vidal Junction.
Eventually, there's a spiritual argument for making such images accessible. CA United States std test. Even if medical images might be misused, Michael Sappol says, I actually don't desire that chance to prevent these things that are actually amazing records of the human encounter 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, agrees on this particular point: There's a power behind these images, there's a power they have over us, and we've got to accept or respect this at some point." He compares the images to a secular 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, and also the conclusion that we all come to."
Still, a vanitas needs space for contemplation---a space the Web looks 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 pictures 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 might work---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space reserved for being serious is tough to come by." If she believed that about television, publications, and art galleries, one wonders what she may have made of Pinterest.
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