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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print presentation of images that are freely accessible on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about historical medical images, and when and in what media it's proper to view them. It's one thing to take a beautifully bound book aside into a silent 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 tumor. It's another to see exactly the same faces flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images and detached from Barnett's context -supplying 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. On the Internet, the patients' suffering runs the risk of being seen as vintage"---nearly funny in its terrible extremity and its distance from our own time. In a blog post about the method of assembling and after marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett acknowledged to a sense of unease" about sending the images away into the whole world, worrying about the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized attitude" 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 imagined."
As historic medical images go archivists, scholars and digital are being forced to weigh the benefits of disseminating the fascinating and definitely significant record of the evolution of medical practice with issues that the images will probably be misused and misunderstood. Making the images accessible will probably lead to some tone deaf uses and aspect at best---manipulating the shock value of an at body disfigured face or worst. On the other hand, digitization of the sorts of pictures that were once available only to researchers with the means to travel to archives can do lots of great. Such visibility can raise awareness about past wrongs, ease links between historians as well as the families of former patients , even supply us with a fresh approach to consider our own mortality. (Because there are good arguments on either side, and because these medical images may be disturbing to some readers, we have chosen to place the photos we are publishing with this particular article behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to choose whether to see them.)
Here's one case that shows how far such digitized pictures 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 specific component treating injuries that demanded maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned artists and photographers to record his patients' presurgical injuries, using the images 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 through the Wayback Machine ). The job, which was funded 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 graphics that Hartley made from these archives with inspiration later formed the foundation of an exhibit at London's National Army Museum. The job, Hartley writes on his site , was meant to learn more about the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial operations on their lives.
After the exhibition had closed but the digital images had another life. 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. One of the patients in the photographs, Henry Lumley, a pilot trainee, lived with his harm 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 compelled to drift about in virtual space, made into monsters for the amusement of gamers.
Std Test near me Germantown. 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 almost shameful---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this way were censored, lest they diminish morale. So if gamers never realize that the characters they are seeing on screen were once actual guys, it can nevertheless feel when they are trotted out as digitized monsters like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Germantown, MD, United States Std Test. As Wellcome Library archivist Natalie Walters pointed out in a post on the connection between BioShock as well as 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 should have been like for individuals who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How brave these guys were to enable themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to get treatments that often made them appear worse before they looked better.")
Std test nearby Germantown. 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 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." Bamji drew a clear distinction between using such images in a job like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and the Project Faade of Hartley. Std test closest to Maryland. I don't have any problem with all the display of images in a historic context, as without this people don't understand what war can do."
Should we confine accessibility to upsetting digital images to folks who we can be certain will perceive 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 lately posted a series of hushed medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which symbolize what Sappol calls hard subjects": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 film made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four children that are dying of rabies. Fight, the patients convulse, bleed from the mouth; they are inconsolable, even as gloved adult hands reach from off screen to hold them or offer them water.
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 pictures. 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 act on behalf of the areas and arrogate to myself the job of being some kind 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 do not consent to the process, also it is upsetting to see. I could say 'This individual does not desire 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 curiosity we feel about such images, he claims, isn't black, but merely human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is the situation with the Thalidomide Trust archive, which includes medical case files on people born withsevere birth defects after their mothers took the drug thalidomide to ease 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 definitely need their files and pictures made accessible for research as a willful action to open up debate."Of course, there's not any means to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they'd prefer to be seen or stay hidden. Nevertheless, the modern case of thalidomide demonstrates that we must not assume that publication is tantamount to infringement.
Nor should we suppose that 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 additionally a digital historian committed to making her sources publicly available. Germantown MD Std Test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when requested to collaborate with a producer at NPR's show Science Friday on a slideshow of photos that were lobotomy. 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 observers to take a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own purposes as broken," she might have the ability to show that these faces comprise more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the post of Posner wrote that he had recently learned that his grandpa, lobotomized and who he had never met, had been institutionalized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I do not care if it is a picture of him having this done I merely want and need to see a picture of him so MUCH, and I have not seen a picture of my grandfather, never, ever. Can you tell me how to get to these archives?" It might have been considerably more challenging for the commenter to find her if Posner had not gone with Science Friday; the connection might not have been made. Std Test near me Germantown.
Finally, there's a religious argument for making such images accessible. MD, United States Std Test. Even if medical pictures may be misused, Michael Sappol says, I don't need that chance to prevent these things that are really amazing documents of the human experience 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's a power behind these pictures, there's a power they have over us, and we've got to accept or honor this at some point." He compares the images 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, images like those in the Sick Rose might remind us: This is the body, along with the conclusion that we all come to."
Still, a vanitas demands space for contemplation---a space the Web appears ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was composed as the Web was in the process of scattering photos to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photographs of suffering could be a memento mori " and function as a still point around which to contemplate mortality. But she wondered how this may function---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space reserved for being serious is difficult to come by." If she thought that about art galleries, books, and television, one wonders what she may have made of Pinterest.
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