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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print presentation of pictures that are freely available digitally on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about historic medical pictures, and when and in what media it's appropriate to look at them. It's one thing to take a beautifully bound book aside into a quiet armchair and have a one on one encounter with the face of a baby wizened by tertiary syphilis, or with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumour. It's another to see the same faces flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated pictures and detached from the circumstance of Barnett -providing scholarship.
The Sick Rose is organized by afflictions, the majority of which are now rare in the Western world: gout, cholera, tuberculosis, advanced phases of syphilis. Online, the patients' suffering runs the danger of being seen as classic"---nearly comical in its awful extremity and its distance from our own time. In a blog post about the method of assembling and later marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a feeling of unease" about sending the pictures away into the planet, worrying concerning the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized attitude" 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 pictures of something that happened to someone somewhere. They aren't imagined."
As historical medical images go digital, scholars and archivists are being forced to weigh the benefits of disseminating the fascinating and unquestionably significant record of the progression of medical practice with issues that the images will probably be misused and misunderstood. Making the pictures accessible will probably lead to some tone-deaf uses and respect at best---using the shock value of a disfigured face or body at On the flip side, digitization of the sorts of pictures which were once available only to researchers with the means to travel to archives can do a lot of great. Such visibility can raise consciousness about past wrongs, facilitate the families of former patients and also links between historians , even supply us with a new method to consider 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 put the photographs we are publishing with this particular article behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to choose whether to view them.)
Here's one case that demonstrates how far such digitized photographs can slip away from their circumstances. 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 necessitated maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to document his patients' presurgical harms, using the images to plan the approach of his team.
These photographs ended up on the Web as a portion of a mid-2000s exhibit titled Project Faade (now archived through 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 artwork that Hartley made from these archives with inspiration after formed the foundation of an exhibit at London's National Army Museum. The job, Hartley writes on his web site , was intended to explore the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial surgeries on their lives.
But the digital images had another life following the exhibit had closed. Some photos from the Job Faade archive ended up used in the design of the genetic mutants (splicers") that players of the videogame BioShock must battle. Henry Lumley, one of many patients in the pictures, a pilot trainee, was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school and lived with his injury for a year 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 forced to roam around in virtual space, made into monsters for the amusement of gamers.
Std test nearby Convent. Does this matter, 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 death in battle as glorious, but facial mutilation was seen as almost black---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they reduce morale. So if gamers never understand the characters they are seeing on screen were once real men, it can still feel like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again when they are trotted out as digitized monsters. Convent LA 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 pictures are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a glance into what life must have been like for people who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How courageous these guys were to allow themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to undergo treatments that frequently made them seem worse before they seemed better.")
Std test closest to Convent. Dr. Andrew Bamji, the Gillies Archives' curator, told me over email that he approached the game's developers after finding out about this use and succeeded in contacting one. I pointed out that the use of identifiable guys in the context of the game was an appalling way to take care of the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no further such images would be used, and there the matter ended." 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 nearest Louisiana. I have no issue with all the display of pictures in a historic context, as without this folks don't understand what war can do."
Should we restrict accessibility 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 sets have recently posted a number of silent medical movies from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which signify what Sappol calls difficult themes": 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, fight, 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 occupation of the librarian or archivist to decide that the people can not handle looking at such images. We are 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 subjects and arrogate to myself the job of being some type of officer of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy films from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the folks in this film ... seem like they surely do not consent to the process, also it's upsetting to see. I really could say 'This individual doesn't desire 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 curiosity we feel about such images, he asserts, is not black, but just human.
The problem is further complicated by the fact that a few subjects favor visibility. This is the situation with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which features medical case files on people 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 vary widely, but some definitely want their files and images made available for research as a purposeful act to open up debate."Of course, there is not any way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be observed or stay hidden. But the modern case of thalidomide demonstrates that we must not presume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we suppose the Web is a 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 committed to making her sources freely accessible. Convent, LA 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 patients his filmed before and after their operations.
But Posner finally went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by asking observers to choose a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own goals as broken," she may have the capacity to show that these faces include more options than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the place of Posner wrote that he'd recently discovered that his grandpa, lobotomized and who he'd never met, had been institutionalized in West Virginia, where Freeman did some of his work. The commenter wrote: I have not seen a picture of my grandfather, never and I do not care if it's a graphic of him having this done I desire and only want to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me the best way to get to these archives?" If Posner hadn't gone ahead with Science Friday, it might have been much more difficult for the commenter to locate her; the connection might not have been made. Std Test nearest Convent.
Finally, there is a spiritual argument for making such images available. LA United States std test. Even if medical pictures may be misused, Michael Sappol says, I do not need that chance to prevent these things that are actually amazing files of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they can redeem us in some way. They could provide us with some sort of curriculum of human suffering. ... Looking at them makes life richer and deeper." Barnett, despite his misgivings, concurs on this point: There is a power behind these images, there is a power they have over us, and we've got to recognize or respect this at some point." He compares the images 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, 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 requires space for contemplation---a space the Web seems ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was composed as the Web was in the method of scattering photos to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photos of suffering might be a memento mori " and serve as a still point around which to contemplate mortality. But she wondered how this may work---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space reserved for being serious is challenging to come by." If she believed that about art galleries, publications, and television, one wonders what she may have made of Pinterest.
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