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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print display of images that are available digitally on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about medical pictures that are historic, and when and in what media it's appropriate to view them. It is one thing to take a beautifully bound book aside 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 tumour. It is another to see the same faces detached from the context of Barnett and flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated pictures -supplying scholarship.
Afflictions, the majority of which are now rare in the Western world organize the Sick Rose: gout, cholera, tuberculosis, advanced stages of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' suffering runs the danger of being seen as classic"---almost amusing in its terrible extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the process of assembling and after promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a sense of unease" about sending the images away into the planet, worrying concerning the kitsch, understanding, and emptily ironized approach" 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 pictures of something that occurred to someone somewhere. They're not visualized."
As historical medical pictures go digital, scholars and archivists are being compelled to consider the benefits of disseminating the undoubtedly significant and fascinating record of the evolution of medical practice with concerns that the pictures will likely be misused and misunderstood. Making the images available will almost surely cause some tone deaf uses, lacking empathy and respect at best---manipulating the shock value of a disfigured face or body at On the other hand, digitization of the kinds of pictures which were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do plenty of great. Such visibility can raise consciousness about previous wrongs, facilitate the families of former patients and connections between historians , even 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 can be upsetting to some readers, we've chosen to set the photographs we're printing with this particular article behind a digital scrim, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether to see them.)
Here's one case that shows how far such digitized pictures can steal away from their circumstances. 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 component treating injuries that necessitated maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned artists and photographers to document his patients' presurgical injuries, using the images to plan his team's strategy.
These photos ended up on the Web as a portion 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 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 visuals that Hartley made with inspiration from these archives later formed the foundation of an exhibit at London's National Army Museum. The job, Hartley writes on his website , was intended to explore the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial operations on their lives.
Following the exhibition had closed, but the digital images had another life. Some photos from the Endeavor Faade archive ended up used in the plan of the genetic mutants (splicers") that players of the videogame BioShock must battle. Henry Lumley, among the patients in the photographs, 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 forced to roam around in virtual space, made into monsters for the amusement of gamers.
Std test nearest Mount Erie. Does this matter, 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 departure in battle as glorious, but facial mutilation was seen as nearly shameful---a fate worse than death"---and images of soldiers injured in this way were censored, lest they decrease morale. So even 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 guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Mount Erie 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 folks in a computer game, gives us a glance into what life must have been like for folks who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How courageous these guys were to let themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to experience treatments that frequently made them seem worse before they appeared better.")
Std test near Mount Erie. 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 men in the context of the game was an appalling approach to heal 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 the utilization of such images in a project like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and stories of the patients, and the Project Faade of Hartley. Std Test near Illinois. I have no issue with the display of pictures in a historical context, as without this people don't understand what war can do."
Should we limit access to upsetting digital images to people who we can be sure will perceive 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 groups have recently posted a number of silent medical pictures from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which symbolize what Sappol calls hard subjects": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 picture made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four children who are dying of rabies. The patients convulse, fight, bleed from the mouth; they are inconsolable, even as offer them water or gloved adult hands reach from off screen to hold them.
Sappol does not think it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to decide that the public can't handle looking at images that are such. We are stewards of these historical materials," he told me. They don't belong to us. They belong to everybody. ... I would not like to act on behalf of the areas and arrogate to myself the occupation 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 ... look like they surely don't consent to the procedure, plus it is upsetting to see. I could say 'This individual doesn't need 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 interest we feel about such images, he asserts, is not black, but simply human.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This really is the situation with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which comprises 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 views of thalidomiders themselves on what should happen with their case files vary widely, but some undoubtedly need their files and images made accessible for research as a purposeful action to open up discussion."Of course, there is no method 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 reveals that we should not presume that publication is tantamount to infringement.
Nor should we assume 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 committed to making her sources freely accessible. Mount Erie IL std test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when requested to collaborate on a slideshow of lobotomy photographs with a producer at NPR's show Science Friday. Neurologist Walter Freeman, who carried out more than 3,500 of the procedures, photographed and patients his filmed before and after their operations.
But Posner ultimately went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by asking audiences to take a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own motives as broken," she may have the ability to show that these faces comprise more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's place wrote that he'd recently learned that his grandfather, who he had never met, had been institutionalized and lobotomized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I have not seen a picture of my grandfather, never, ever, and I don't care if it's a graphic of him having this done I desire and just want to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me how to get to these archives?" It might have been considerably tougher for the commenter to find her, if Posner had not gone ahead with Science Friday; the link might not have been made. Std Test near Mount Erie.
Finally, there's a spiritual argument for making such pictures available. IL United States Std Test. Even if medical images may be abused, Michael Sappol says, I do not desire that possibility to prevent these things that are really amazing records of the human encounter from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they could redeem us in some way. They could supply us with some form 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 images, there is a power they have over us, and we have 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, 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 demands space for contemplation---a space the Web appears ill to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was written as the Web was in the method of scattering photos 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 might function---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space allowed for being serious is tough to come by." If she thought that about television, novels, and art galleries, one wonders what she may have made of Pinterest.
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