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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print display of images that are accessible digitally on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about medical pictures that are historic, and when and in what media it's appropriate to look at them. It is 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 flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images and detached from Barnett's circumstance -providing scholarship.
Afflictions, the majority of which are now rare in the Western world organize the Sick Rose: gout, cholera, tuberculosis, advanced phases of syphilis. Online, the patients' anguish runs the risk of being seen as classic"---almost funny in its terrible extremity and its distance from our own time. In a blog post about the process of assembling and after marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett acknowledged to a feeling of unease" about sending the images off into the whole world, worrying in regards to the kitsch, understanding, and emptily ironized attitude" that could greet the pictures. (When Wired ran a slideshow of photographs 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 occurred to someone somewhere. They aren't envisioned."
As historical medical pictures go digital, scholars and archivists are being forced to weigh the advantages of disseminating the definitely important and fascinating record of the progression of medical practice with issues the images will soon be misunderstood and misused. Making the pictures accessible will probably result in some tone deaf uses and aspect at best---manipulating the shock value of a disfigured face or body at On the other hand, digitization of the sorts of images that were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do lots of great. Such visibility can raise consciousness about past wrongs, ease the families of former patients as well as connections between historians , even supply us with a brand new strategy to consider our own mortality. (Because there are good arguments on either side, and because these medical images could be upsetting to some readers, we have decided to set the pictures we're printing with this specific post behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to choose whether to see them.)
Here's one instance that demonstrates how far such digitized pictures can slip away 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 particular component treating injuries that required maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned artists and photographers to record his patients' presurgical injuries, using the pictures to plan the approach of his team.
These photos ended up on the Web as part of a mid-2000s exhibition titled Project Faade (now archived through the Wayback Machine ). The project, 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 artwork that Hartley made with inspiration from these archives later formed the foundation of an exhibition at London's National Army Museum. The job, Hartley writes on his website , was intended to explore the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial operations on their lives.
Nevertheless, the digital images had another life after the exhibition had closed. Some photographs 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 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 admitted to Gillies' care. 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 about in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std test in New Haven. Does this matter, given that many (most?) BioShock players will never 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 pictures of soldiers injured in this way were censored, lest they reduce morale. So even if gamers never understand that the characters they're seeing on screen were once real men, it can nevertheless feel when they're trotted out as digitized monsters, like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. New Haven, CT 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 almost 100 years after comparable images are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a peek into what life should have been like for people who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How brave 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 nearby New Haven. 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 using 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 finished." 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 Hartley's Project Faade. Std test nearest Connecticut. I don't have any issue with all the display of pictures in a historic context, as without this people do not comprehend what war can do."
Should we confine accessibility to upsetting digital images to people who we can be certain will see them in appropriate 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 sets have lately posted a series of quiet medical movies 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 kids that 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 doesn't believe it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to determine that the people can't handle looking at pictures that are such. We are 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 type of officer of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy films from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the people in this picture ... seem like they certainly don't consent to the process, and it is upsetting to see. I really could say 'This individual does not want to be on camera, they're 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 pictures, he claims, is not shameful, but just human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that some subjects favor visibility. This really is the case with the Thalidomide Trust archive, which contains medical case files on people produced 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 occur with their case files fluctuate widely, but some undoubtedly want their files and pictures made accessible for research as a willful action to open up discourse."Of course, there is not any means to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be seen or stay hidden. Nevertheless, the modern example of thalidomide reveals that we shouldn't assume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we assume that the Web is a less serious medium than the bound-and- printed book. Historian Miriam Posner, who wrote her dissertation on medical filmmaking, is also a digital historian committed to making her sources freely available. New Haven CT 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 pictures. Neurologist Walter Freeman, who carried out more than 3,500 of the processes, 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 viewers to choose a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own motives as broken," she might have the capacity to show that these faces comprise more options than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's post wrote that he'd lately discovered 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 actually don't care if it's an image of him having this done I only want and need to see a picture of him so MUCH, and I have not seen a picture of my grandfather, never, ever. Can you tell me the best way to get to these archives?" It might have been considerably more challenging for the commenter to find her if Posner had not gone with Science Friday; the link might not have been made. Std Test nearest New Haven.
Eventually, there's a religious argument for making such pictures available. CT, United States std test. Even if medical images may be misused, Michael Sappol says, I do not desire that chance to prevent these things that are really amazing files of the human encounter from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they could redeem us in some way. They are able to supply us with some sort of curriculum of human suffering. ... Looking at them makes life richer and deeper." Barnett, despite his misgivings, concurs on this particular point: There is a power behind these pictures, there's a power they have over us, and we have to acknowledge or respect this at some point." He compares the pictures 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 Actually the body, along with the conclusion that we all come to."
Still, a vanitas requires 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 procedure for scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that pictures of suffering might be a memento mori " and function as a still point around which to contemplate mortality. But she wondered how this could work---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space reserved for being serious is difficult to come by." One wonders what she may have made of Pinterest if she believed that about novels, art galleries, and television.
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