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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print display of images that are freely accessible on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about medical images that are historic, 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 silent armchair and have a one-on-one encounter with all with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumour, or the face of a baby wizened by tertiary syphilis. It is another to see exactly the 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.
The Sick Rose is formed by afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world: cholera, tuberculosis, gout, advanced stages of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' suffering runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---almost amusing in its dreadful extremity and its distance from our own time. In a blog post about the procedure for assembling and after promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a feeling of unease" about sending the pictures away into the planet, worrying about the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized approach" that could greet the pictures. (When Wired ran a slideshow of photographs 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 images of something that happened to someone somewhere. They're not visualized."
As historic medical pictures go archivists, scholars and digital are being compelled to weigh the benefits of disseminating the certainly important and interesting record of the development of medical practice with issues the pictures will be misused and misunderstood. Making the pictures available will almost certainly result in some tone-deaf uses and respect at best---using the shock value of a disfigured face or body at On the other hand, digitization of the types of pictures that were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do lots of great. Such visibility can raise consciousness about previous wrongs, ease links between historians and the families of former patients provide us with a fresh way to think of our own mortality. (Because there are excellent arguments on either side, and because these medical images can be upsetting to some readers, we have chosen to place the photographs we're printing with this particular post behind a digital scrim, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether to view them.)
Here's one case that demonstrates how far such digitized photos can slip 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 particular unit treating injuries that necessitated maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned artists and photographers to document his patients' presurgical harms, using the pictures to plan his team's approach.
These photographs 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 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 with inspiration from these archives afterwards formed the basis of an exhibition at London's National Army Museum. The job, Hartley writes on his website , was meant to learn more about the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial operations on their lives.
But the digital images had another life following the exhibition had closed. Some pictures from the Endeavor Faade archive ended up used in the plan of the genetic mutants (splicers") that players of the videogame BioShock must battle. One of many patients in the photos, a pilot trainee, Henry Lumley, was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school and lived with his harm 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 compelled to drift around in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std test near me Opelousas. 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 pictures of soldiers injured in this way were censored, lest they reduce morale. So even if gamers never realize that the characters they are seeing on screen were once actual men, it can nevertheless feel when they are trotted out as digitized monsters, like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Opelousas, 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 after comparable images are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a glance into what life must have been like for individuals who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How brave these guys were to allow themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to get treatments that often made them seem worse before they seemed better.")
Std Test nearby Opelousas. 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 usage of identifiable men in the context of the game was an appalling approach 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 finished." Bamji drew a clear distinction between the utilization of such pictures in a project like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade. Std Test near Louisiana. I have no issue with the display of images in a historical context, as without this people don't understand what war can do."
Should we restrict accessibility to upsetting digital images to folks who we can be sure will see 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 lately posted a run of silent medical pictures from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which signify what Sappol calls challenging issues": 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. 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 believe it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to determine that the people can't handle looking at pictures that are such. 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 play on behalf of the areas and arrogate to myself the occupation of being some kind 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 picture ... appear like they surely don't consent to the process, and it is disturbing to see. I really could say 'This person does not 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 understand?" The fascination we feel about such pictures, he claims, isn't shameful, but merely human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This really is the case with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which comprises medical case files on people 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 happen with their case files fluctuate widely, but some undoubtedly need their files and pictures made accessible for research as a deliberate action to open up debate."Of course, there's no 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 case of thalidomide demonstrates that we must not assume that publication is tantamount to infringement.
Nor should we suppose 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 available. Opelousas, LA Std Test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when requested to collaborate on a slideshow of lobotomy photos with a producer at NPR's show Science Friday. Neurologist Walter Freeman, who carried out more than 3,500 of the procedures, photographed and filmed his patients 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 be able to show that these faces feature more options than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the place of Posner wrote that he had lately discovered that his grandfather, who he'd never met, had been institutionalized and lobotomized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I have not seen an image of my grandfather, never, ever, and I do not care if it is a picture of him having this done I just 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 find her, if Posner hadn't gone ahead with Science Friday; the connection mightn't have been made. Std Test nearby Opelousas.
Eventually, there is a religious argument for making such pictures accessible. LA United States Std Test. Even if medical pictures might be abused, Michael Sappol says, I actually don't need that chance to prevent these things that are actually amazing records of the human encounter from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they could redeem us in some way. They could provide us with some type 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's a power they have over us, and we've got to acknowledge or honor 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, and the conclusion that we all come to."
However, a vanitas requires space for contemplation---a space the Web appears ill to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was composed as the Web was in the method of scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photos of suffering might be a memento mori " and serve as a still point around which to consider mortality. But she wondered how this could work---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space allowed for being serious is difficult to come by." One wonders what she might have made of Pinterest if she believed that about television, novels, and art galleries.
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