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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print presentation of pictures that are freely available digitally on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about historical medical images, and when and in what media it is proper to look at them. It's one thing to take a beautifully bound book apart into a quiet 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 tumor. It's another to see the exact same faces detached from the context of Barnett and flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images -supplying scholarship.
Afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world organize the Sick Rose: cholera, tuberculosis, gout, advanced phases of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' anguish runs the danger of being seen as classic"---nearly comical in its horrible extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the method of assembling and after promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett acknowledged to a sense of unease" about sending the pictures off 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 photos 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 pictured."
As historical medical pictures go digital, scholars and archivists are being forced to consider the benefits of disseminating the interesting and undoubtedly important record of the evolution of medical practice with issues the pictures will probably be misunderstood and misused. Making the images available will almost surely lead to some tone deaf uses and respect at best---manipulating the shock value of a disfigured face or body at worst. On the flip side, digitization of the types of pictures that were once accessible only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do a great deal of great. Such visibility can raise awareness about past wrongs, ease connections between historians as well as the families of former patients , even provide us with a new approach to think of our own mortality. (Because there are excellent arguments on both sides, and because these medical images can be upsetting to some readers, we have chosen to place the pictures we are printing with this specific post behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to decide whether to view them.)
Here's one case that demonstrates how much such digitized photographs 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 needed maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to record his patients' presurgical harms, using the pictures to plan the strategy of his team.
These pictures 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 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 visuals that Hartley made from these archives with inspiration after formed the basis of an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. The job, Hartley writes on his website , was meant to explore the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial surgeries on their lives.
Nevertheless, the digital images had another life following the exhibit had closed. Some photographs from the Endeavor 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 photographs, a pilot trainee, Henry Lumley, was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school and lived with his injury for a year before being declared 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 wander around in virtual space, made into monsters for the amusement of gamers.
Std test closest to Manhattan. Does this matter, given that many (most?) BioShock players will never know who these guys 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 if gamers never understand that the characters they are seeing on screen were once actual men, it can still feel when they're trotted out as digitized monsters like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Manhattan, 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 almost 100 years after comparable images are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a glimpse into what life must have been like for folks who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How courageous these men were to let themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to experience treatments that often made them appear worse before they seemed better.")
Std test closest to Manhattan. Dr. Andrew Bamji, the Gillies Archives' curator, told me over e-mail that he approached the game's programmers after finding out about this use and succeeded in contacting one. I pointed out that the use of identifiable guys 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." Where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade Bamji drew a clear distinction between the usage of such images in a project like BioShock. Std test nearby Illinois. I have no problem with the display of pictures in a historic context, as without this folks don't comprehend what war can do."
Should we limit accessibility to upsetting digital images to folks who we can be certain will perceive them in proper 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 groups have recently posted a run of hushed medical movies from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which signify 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. Fight, 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 think it should be the job 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 play on behalf of the subjects and arrogate to myself the occupation of being some sort of cop of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy films from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the men and women in this movie ... seem like they certainly do not consent to the process, also it's disturbing to see. I really could say 'This individual does not need to be on camera, they are being humiliated.' But this is from. If we never get to see this, who gets to understand?" The interest we feel about such pictures, he argues, isn't black, but only human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is actually 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 occur with their case files fluctuate widely, but some undoubtedly want their files and images made available for research as a deliberate action to open up disagreement."Of course, there's not any means to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be seen or stay concealed. Nevertheless, the modern example of thalidomide demonstrates that we should not presume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we suppose 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 publicly accessible. Manhattan IL 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 photos. 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 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 ability to reveal that these faces comprise more options than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's post wrote that he'd recently learned that his grandfather, who he had 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 actually don't care if it is an image of him having this done I only want and need to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me how to get to these archives?" It might have been much more difficult for the commenter to locate her if Posner hadn't gone with Science Friday; the link mightn't have been made. Std Test nearest Manhattan.
Eventually, there's a religious argument for making such images accessible. IL United States Std Test. Even if medical pictures may be misused, Michael Sappol says, I really don't desire that chance to prevent these things that are really amazing documents of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they are able to redeem us in some way. They could supply us with some type 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 is a power they have over us, and we have to accept or honor this at some point." He compares the pictures to a laic 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, as well as the end that we all come to."
However, a vanitas needs space for contemplation---a space the Web seems ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was written as the Web was in the method of scattering pictures to the four winds. Sontag wrote that pictures of suffering might be a memento mori " and function as a still point around which to consider mortality. But she wondered how this may work---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 novels, art galleries, and television.
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