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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print presentation of images that are freely available digitally on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about medical images that are historic, and when and in what media it's proper to see them. It is one thing to take a beautifully bound book apart 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 exact same faces detached from Barnett's circumstance 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: cholera, gout, tuberculosis, advanced stages of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' suffering runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---almost amusing in its horrible extremity and its distance 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 pictures away into the planet, worrying about 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 pictures of something that occurred to someone somewhere. They're not pictured."
As historical medical images go archivists, scholars and digital are being forced to weigh the benefits of disseminating the undoubtedly significant and interesting record of the development of medical practice with matters that the images will probably be misused and misunderstood. Making the pictures available will probably result in some tone-deaf uses, lacking empathy and regard at best---manipulating the shock value of an at body disfigured face or worst. On the flip side, digitization of the kinds of images that were once available only to researchers with the means to travel to archives can do plenty of great. Such visibility can raise awareness about previous wrongs, facilitate the families of former patients and also links between historians , even provide us with a brand new method to think of our own mortality. (Because there are good arguments on both sides, and because these medical images can be upsetting to some readers, we have chosen to place the photographs we are publishing with this particular article behind a digital scrim, which allows you, the reader, to choose whether to view them.)
Here's one instance that demonstrates how far such digitized photos can slip from their contexts. Art historian Suzannah Biernoff has written about the destiny 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 unit treating injuries that needed maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to record his patients' presurgical harms, using the images to plan his team's strategy.
These photos ended up on the Web as part of a mid-2000s exhibition titled Project Faade (now archived via the Wayback Machine ). The job, 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 graphics that Hartley made from these archives with inspiration afterwards formed the foundation of an exhibit at the National Army Museum in London. The job, Hartley writes on his website , was intended to explore the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial surgeries on their lives.
After the exhibit had closed, nevertheless, the digital images had another life. 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, among the patients in the pictures, a pilot trainee, lived with his harm 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 site And here's an image of the BioShock character in question) Lumley and his fellow patients are now compelled to wander about in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std test near me Knoxville. Does this issue, given that many (most?) BioShock players WOn't ever know who these guys 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 virtually black---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this way were censored, lest they diminish morale. So if gamers never realize the characters they're seeing on screen were once actual guys, it can nevertheless feel when they're trotted out as digitized monsters, like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Knoxville IL 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 nearly 100 years later comparable pictures are used to frighten people in a computer game, gives us a glance into what life should have been like for individuals who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How brave these guys were to permit themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to undergo treatments that frequently made them seem worse before they appeared better.")
Std Test closest to Knoxville. 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 context 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 used, and there the matter ended." 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 the Project Faade of Hartley. Std Test nearby Illinois. I have no issue with the display of pictures in a historical context, as without this people don't comprehend what war can do."
Should we restrict access to upsetting digital images to people who we can be sure will see them in proper context? Michael Sappol , a historian at the U.S. National Library of Medicine who has written about historical and modern medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital sets have lately posted a number of quiet medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which represent what Sappol calls challenging subjects": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 film 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're 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 don't belong to us. They belong to everybody. ... I would not like to play on behalf of the subjects and arrogate to myself the job of being some type of policeman of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy pictures from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the people in this movie ... appear like they definitely do not consent to the process, plus it's upsetting to see. I could say 'This individual does not want to be on camera, they are being humiliated.' But this is something we can learn from. If we never get to see this, who gets to know?" The interest we feel about such pictures, he argues, is not black, but just human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that a few subjects favor visibility. This is the case with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which includes medical case files on folks born 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 want their files and images made available for research as a deliberate act to open up discussion."Of course, there is not any way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they'd prefer to be observed or remain concealed. Nevertheless, the modern example of thalidomide shows that we shouldn't suppose that publication is tantamount to violation.
Nor should we suppose 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 also a digital historian dedicated to making her sources publicly accessible. Knoxville, 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 patients his filmed before and after their operations.
But Posner ultimately went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by asking viewers to choose a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own purposes as broken," she may be able to show that these faces contain more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the post of Posner wrote that he had lately learned that his grandfather, who he'd never met, had been institutionalized and lobotomized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I haven't seen a picture of my grandpa, never, ever, and I actually don't care if it is an image of him having this done I need and merely want to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me the way to get to these archives?" It might have been considerably harder for the commenter to locate her if Posner hadn't gone ahead with Science Friday; the connection mightn't have been made. Std Test in Knoxville.
Finally, there's a religious argument for making such pictures available. IL United States Std Test. Even if medical pictures might be misused, Michael Sappol says, I actually don't want that chance to prevent these things that are actually amazing documents of the human encounter from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they could redeem us in some way. They can 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 point: There is a power behind these pictures, there is a power they have over us, and we've got to accept or respect 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, images like those in the Sick Rose might remind us: This Is Actually the body, and the conclusion that we all come to."
Still, a vanitas demands space for contemplation---a space the Web looks ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's closing book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was written as the Web was in the process of scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that pictures of suffering might be a memento mori " and serve as a still point around which to contemplate mortality. But she wondered how this may function---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space allowed for being serious is difficult to come by." One wonders what she may have made of Pinterest if she believed that about art galleries, novels, and television.
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