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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print presentation of images that are available on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about historic medical pictures, and when and in what media it's appropriate to see 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 a baby wizened by tertiary syphilis, or with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumour. It is 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 formed by afflictions, the majority of which are now rare in the Western world: gout, cholera, tuberculosis, advanced stages of syphilis. Online, the patients' anguish runs the risk of being seen as vintage"---nearly comical in its awful extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the procedure for assembling and after marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a feeling of unease" about sending the images away into the world, worrying in regards to the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized approach" that could greet the images. (When Wired ran a slideshow of pictures 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 historic medical pictures go archivists, scholars and digital are being forced to consider the benefits of disseminating the unquestionably significant and fascinating record of the evolution of medical practice with issues that the images will be misunderstood and misused. Making the pictures accessible will almost surely lead to some tone-deaf uses, lacking empathy and respect at best---manipulating the shock value of an at body disfigured face or worst. 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 lots of good. Such visibility can raise awareness about previous wrongs, ease links between historians as well as the families of former patients supply us with a brand new approach to think of 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 publishing with this particular article behind a digital scrim, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether to see them.)
Here's one instance that shows how far such digitized pictures can steal 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 special component treating injuries that required maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned artists and photographers to record his patients' presurgical harms, using the images to plan the strategy of his team.
These photographs ended up on the Web as a portion of a mid-2000s exhibit titled Project Faade (now archived via 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 art that Hartley made from these archives with inspiration after formed the foundation of an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. The endeavor, Hartley writes on his web site , was intended to explore the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial operations on their lives.
After the exhibition had closed but the digital images had another life. Some photographs from the Job Faade archive ended up used in the design of the genetic mutants (splicers") that players of the videogame BioShock must battle. One of the patients in the photos, 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 declared to Gillies' attention. 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 compelled to drift around in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std Test closest to Hillsboro. 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 death in battle as glorious, but facial mutilation was seen as almost black---a fate worse than death"---and images of soldiers injured in this way were censored, lest they reduce morale. So even if gamers never understand the characters they are seeing on screen were once actual guys, it can still feel like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again when they're trotted out as digitized monsters. Hillsboro IL, 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 later comparable images are used to frighten people in a computer game, gives us a glimpse into what life must have been like for folks who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How courageous these men were to permit themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to experience treatments that often made them appear worse before they looked better.")
Std Test closest to Hillsboro. 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 method to take care of the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no additional such pictures would be used, and there the matter finished." Bamji drew a clear distinction between using such images in a project like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade. Std Test nearest Illinois. I don't have any problem with the display of pictures in a historical context, as without this folks do not understand what war can do."
Should we confine access to upsetting digital images to folks 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 groups have recently posted a run of quiet medical movies from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which symbolize what Sappol calls difficult subjects": 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. Struggle, the patients convulse, bleed from the mouth; they're 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 decide that the public can't handle looking at such images. We're stewards of these historical materials," he told me. They don't belong to us. They belong to everybody. ... I wouldn't like to act on behalf of the areas and arrogate to myself the occupation of being some type of cop of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy pictures from the 1930s, Sappol says, Some of the men and women in this film ... appear like they certainly don't consent to the procedure, and it is disturbing to see. I could say 'This person doesn't 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 interest we feel about such images, he asserts, is not shameful, but only human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that some subjects prefer visibility. This is the case with the Thalidomide Trust archive, which features medical case files on individuals produced 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 perspectives of thalidomiders themselves on what should occur with their case files vary widely, but some definitely want their files and images made accessible for research as a willful act to open up discussion."Of course, there's no way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be seen or remain concealed. But the modern example of thalidomide demonstrates that we must not assume 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 also a digital historian committed to making her sources publicly accessible. Hillsboro, IL Std Test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when asked to collaborate on a slideshow of photos that were lobotomy 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 operations.
But Posner finally went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by simply asking viewers to choose a second look at the before" pictures of patients, which Freeman presented for his own purposes as broken," she may manage to reveal that these faces contain more options than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's place wrote that he had recently learned 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 do not care if it's a graphic of him having this done I merely desire and desire 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 much more challenging for the commenter to locate her, if Posner hadn't gone ahead with Science Friday; the link might not have been made. Std Test near Hillsboro.
Finally, there is a spiritual argument for making such pictures available. IL United States Std Test. Even if medical pictures may be abused, Michael Sappol says, I don't want that chance to prevent these things that are really amazing files of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they can redeem us in some way. They can 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 particular point: There's a power behind these images, there is a power they have over us, and we've got to acknowledge or honor 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 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 written as the Web was in the process of scattering photos to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photos of suffering could be a memento mori " and function 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 hard to come by." One wonders what she might have made of Pinterest if she thought that about art galleries, novels, and television.
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