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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print display of pictures that are freely available digitally on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about medical pictures that are historical, 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 the face of an infant wizened by tertiary syphilis, or with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumour. It's another to see the exact same faces detached from Barnett's context and flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images -supplying scholarship.
Afflictions, the majority of which are now rare in the Western world organize the Sick Rose: cholera, gout, tuberculosis, advanced stages of syphilis. Online, the patients' suffering runs the risk of being seen as vintage"---nearly amusing in its terrible extremity and its distance from our own time. In a blog post about the procedure for assembling and later marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett acknowledged to a feeling of unease" about sending the images off into the world, worrying about the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized approach" that could greet the pictures. (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 images of something that happened to someone somewhere. They aren't pictured."
As historic medical pictures go archivists, scholars and digital are being forced to consider the advantages of disseminating the interesting and definitely significant record of the progression of medical practice with issues that the pictures will probably be misunderstood and misused. Making the pictures accessible will probably cause some tone deaf uses, lacking empathy and aspect at best---exploiting the shock value of an at body disfigured face or On the other hand, digitization of the types of pictures which were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do lots of good. Such visibility can raise consciousness about past wrongs, facilitate connections between historians as well as the families of former patients , even supply us with a fresh approach to consider our own mortality. (Because there are good arguments on either side, and because these medical images could be disturbing to some readers, we have chosen to put the photos we're publishing with this particular post behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to decide whether to see them.)
Here's one case that demonstrates how far such digitized pictures can slip from their contexts. Art historian Suzannah Biernoff has written about the destiny 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 unit treating injuries that required maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to record his patients' presurgical harms, using the pictures to plan the strategy of his team.
These photos ended up on the Web as part 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 graphics that Hartley made with inspiration from these archives after formed the foundation of an exhibition at London's National Army Museum. The job, Hartley writes on his web site , was meant to learn more about the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial operations on their lives.
But the digital images had another life following the exhibit had closed. Some pictures 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 the patients in the photographs, a pilot trainee, lived with his harm 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 a picture 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 in Gray. 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 virtually black---a fate worse than death"---and images of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they decrease morale. So even if gamers never realize the characters they are seeing on screen were once actual men, it can still feel like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again when they are trotted out as digitized monsters. Gray GA, 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 later similar pictures are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a glance into what life should have been like for people who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How courageous these guys were to allow themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to experience treatments that often made them appear worse before they appeared better.")
Std Test near me Gray. 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 heal the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no additional such pictures would be used, 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 near me Georgia. I don't have any issue with all the display of pictures in a historic context, as without this folks do not understand what war can do."
Should we confine accessibility to upsetting digital images to individuals 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 historic and modern medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital collections have recently posted a series of silent medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which represent what Sappol calls challenging themes": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 film made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four children who are dying of rabies. Fight, the patients convulse, bleed from the mouth; they are inconsolable, even as offer them water or gloved adult hands reach from off screen to hold them.
Sappol doesn't believe it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to determine that the people can not handle looking at such pictures. 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 job of being some kind of policeman of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy movies from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the men and women in this movie ... appear like they certainly don't consent to the process, plus it is upsetting to see. I could say 'This individual doesn't desire 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 images, he claims, is not black, but merely human.
The problem is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is actually the case with the Thalidomide Trust archive, which comprises medical case files on folks 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 perspectives of thalidomiders themselves on what should occur with their case files vary widely, but some undoubtedly need their files and pictures made accessible for research as a willful action to open up discourse."Of course, there is no way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they'd prefer to be seen or remain concealed. Nevertheless, the modern example of thalidomide shows that we should not assume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we suppose 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. Gray, GA 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 processes, photographed and filmed his patients before and after their surgeries.
But Posner ultimately 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 goals as broken," she may have the ability to reveal that these faces contain more options than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the post of Posner wrote that he'd lately learned that his grandpa, who he had never met, had been institutionalized and lobotomized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I haven't seen an image of my grandfather, never and I actually don't care if it is a picture of him having this done I merely want and desire to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me how to get to these archives?" If Posner had not gone ahead with Science Friday, it might have been considerably more challenging for the commenter to locate her; the connection might not have been made. Std Test nearby Gray.
Eventually, there's a religious argument for making such images accessible. GA, United States Std Test. Even if medical images might be misused, Michael Sappol says, I don't need that chance to prevent these things that are actually amazing records of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they are able to 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 particular point: There is a power behind these images, there is a power they have over us, and we have to recognize or honor this at some point." He compares the pictures 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 the body, and also the conclusion that we all come to."
However, a vanitas needs space for contemplation---a space the Web appears ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was written as the Web was in the procedure for scattering pictures to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photographs of suffering might be a memento mori " and function as a still point around which to consider mortality. But she wondered how this might function---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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