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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print display of images that are freely available digitally on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about medical pictures that are historic, and when and in what media it is 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 with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumour, or the face of an infant wizened by tertiary syphilis. It is another to see the exact same faces flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images and detached from the circumstance of Barnett -providing scholarship.
The Sick Rose is organized by afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world: gout, cholera, tuberculosis, advanced stages of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' suffering runs the risk of being seen as classic"---almost funny in its dreadful extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the process of assembling and later promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a sense of unease" about sending the images off into the whole world, worrying in regards to the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized approach" that could greet the images. (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 envisioned."
As historical medical images go digital, scholars and archivists are being compelled to consider the advantages of disseminating the unquestionably significant and interesting record of the progression of medical practice with matters the images will probably be misunderstood and misused. Making the images accessible will probably lead to some tone-deaf uses and regard at best---manipulating the shock value of a disfigured face or body at On the flip side, digitization of the kinds of images that were once accessible only to researchers with the means to travel to archives can do lots of good. Such visibility can raise awareness about previous wrongs, ease links between historians and the families of former patients supply us with a fresh strategy to think about our own mortality. (Because there are great arguments on either side, and because these medical images may be upsetting to some readers, we've chosen to put the photographs we're printing with this specific post behind a digital scrim, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether to view them.)
Here's one instance that shows how much such digitized photos can slip away 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 necessitated maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to record his patients' presurgical harms, using the pictures to plan the approach of his team.
These photos ended up on the Web as part of a mid-2000s exhibition titled Project Faade (now archived through the Wayback Machine ). The job, which was funded 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 from these archives with inspiration later formed the foundation of an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. The job, Hartley writes on his website , was intended to learn more about the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial surgeries on their lives.
Following the exhibition had closed, but the digital images had another life. Some photographs 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 photos, 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 website And here's a picture of the BioShock character in question) Lumley and his fellow patients are now forced to wander about in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std Test near East Newport. Does this issue, given that many (most?) BioShock players will never know who these men 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 virtually shameful---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they reduce morale. So even if gamers never understand the characters they're seeing on screen were once real guys, it can still feel when they are trotted out as digitized monsters like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. East Newport, ME, United States Std Test. As Wellcome Library archivist Natalie Walters pointed out in a post on the connection between BioShock along with the Gillies Archive: That almost 100 years after comparable pictures are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a peek into what life must have been like for people who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How brave these men were to let themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to experience treatments that frequently made them appear worse before they seemed better.")
Std test nearby East Newport. 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 guys in the circumstance of the game was an appalling method to treat the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no further such pictures would be utilized, and there the matter ended." Bamji drew a clear distinction between the use of such pictures 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 nearby Maine. I don't have any problem with all the display of pictures in a historic context, as without this people do not understand what war can do."
Should we restrict accessibility to upsetting digital images to individuals who we can be certain will see them in appropriate 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 collections have recently posted a string of silent medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which represent 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'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 job of the librarian or archivist to decide that the public can't handle looking at such pictures. 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 sort of cop of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy movies from the 1930s, Sappol says, Some of the folks in this movie ... look like they surely don't consent to the process, plus it's upsetting to see. I could say 'This individual does not want 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 know?" The curiosity we feel about such images, he claims, isn't black, but only human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is the case with the Thalidomide Trust archive, which includes medical case files on folks produced 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 occur with their case files fluctuate widely, but some undoubtedly want their files and images made available for research as a deliberate act to open up discussion."Of course, there's no method to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they'd prefer to be observed or stay hidden. Nevertheless, the modern case of thalidomide shows that we should not presume that publication is tantamount to violation.
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 also a digital historian committed to making her sources freely accessible. East Newport ME 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 pictures that were lobotomy. 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 simply asking viewers to take a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own motives as broken," she may have the capacity to reveal that these faces contain more options than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the place of Posner wrote that he had lately 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 don't care if it is a graphic of him having this done I only want and need to see a picture of him so MUCH, and I haven't seen a picture of my grandfather, never, ever. Can you tell me how to get to these archives?" If Posner had not gone ahead with Science Friday, it might have been much more difficult for the commenter to locate her; the connection mightn't have been made. Std Test closest to East Newport.
Eventually, there is a religious argument for making such pictures accessible. ME, United States std test. Even if medical pictures may be misused, Michael Sappol says, I don't want 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 are able to provide us with some kind of program of human suffering. ... Looking at them makes life richer and deeper." Barnett, despite his misgivings, agrees on this particular point: There's a power behind these pictures, there is a power they have over us, and we've got to accept or honor this at some point." He compares the pictures 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, pictures like those in the Sick Rose might remind us: This is the body, and also the conclusion that we all come to."
However, a vanitas demands space for contemplation---a space the Web looks ill to offer. Susan Sontag's closing book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was composed as the Web was in the procedure for scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photographs of suffering could be a memento mori " and serve as a still point around which to consider mortality. But she wondered how this might function---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space allowed for being serious is hard to come by." If she thought that about television, publications, and art galleries, one wonders what she might have made of Pinterest.
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