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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print display of pictures that are accessible on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about historic medical pictures, and when and in what media it's appropriate to look at them. It is one thing to take a beautifully bound book aside into a quiet 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's another to see exactly the same faces detached from Barnett's context and flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images -supplying scholarship.
Afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world organize the Sick Rose: cholera, tuberculosis, gout, advanced stages of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' suffering runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---nearly amusing in its terrible extremity and its distance from our own time. In a blog post about the process of assembling and after marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett acknowledged to a sense of unease" about sending the images away into the entire world, worrying concerning the kitsch, understanding, and emptily ironized attitude" 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 pictures of something that happened to someone somewhere. They're not imagined."
As historic medical pictures go digital, scholars and archivists are being forced to weigh the advantages of disseminating the fascinating and undoubtedly significant record of the development of medical practice with matters that the pictures will soon be misunderstood and misused. Making the images available will almost certainly lead to some tone deaf uses, lacking empathy and regard at best---manipulating the shock value of a disfigured face or body at On the flip side, digitization of the kinds of pictures which were once accessible only to researchers with the means to travel to archives can do plenty of great. Such visibility can raise consciousness about previous wrongs, ease the families of former patients and also connections between historians provide us with a brand new way to think about our own mortality. (Because there are excellent arguments on both sides, and because these medical images could be upsetting to some readers, we've chosen to place the pictures we are printing with this article behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to decide whether to view them.)
Here's one case that demonstrates how far such digitized photographs can steal from their contexts. Art historian Suzannah Biernoff has written about the fate 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 photographers and artists to document his patients' presurgical injuries, using the pictures 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 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 basis of an exhibit at London's National Army Museum. The project, Hartley writes on his site , was intended to learn more about the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial operations on their lives.
Nevertheless, the digital images had another life after the exhibit had closed. 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. One of the 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 admitted to Gillies' attention. Lumley died at age 26, of postoperative complications. (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 drift around in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std Test near me Grove Hall. Does this matter, 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 images of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they reduce morale. So even if gamers never understand that the characters they're seeing on screen were once actual guys, it can still feel when they are trotted out as digitized monsters, like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Grove Hall MA, 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 later comparable images are used to frighten people in a computer game, gives us a peek into what life should have been like for individuals who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How brave these guys were to enable themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to undergo treatments that often made them appear worse before they looked better.")
Std test nearest Grove Hall. Dr. Andrew Bamji, the Gillies Archives' curator, told me over email that he approached the game's programmers 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 way to treat the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no further such images would be used, and there the matter finished." Where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade Bamji drew a clear distinction between using such pictures in a project like BioShock. Std Test in Massachusetts. I have no issue with all the display of pictures in a historical context, as without this people don't comprehend what war can do."
Should we limit accessibility to upsetting digital images to people 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 historical and contemporary medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital collections have lately posted a series of quiet medical pictures from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which represent what Sappol calls difficult issues": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 movie made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four children who are dying of rabies. The patients convulse, struggle, bleed from the mouth; they're inconsolable, even as gloved adult hands reach from off screen to hold them or offer them water.
Sappol does not think it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to determine that the public can't 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 would not like to act on behalf of the areas and arrogate to myself the job 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 film ... seem like they certainly do not consent to the process, and it's upsetting to see. I really could say 'This person does not need 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 curiosity we feel about such pictures, he argues, is not black, but just human.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that some subjects prefer visibility. This is actually the case 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 views of thalidomiders themselves on what should occur with their case files vary widely, but some definitely need their files and images made available for research as a willful act to open up discourse."Of course, there's not any way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be viewed or remain concealed. But the modern case of thalidomide shows that we shouldn't assume that publication is tantamount to infringement.
Nor should we suppose that the Web is a less 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. Grove Hall MA 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 photographs 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 operations.
But Posner ultimately went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by asking audiences to take a second look at the before" pictures of patients, which Freeman presented for his own motives as broken," she might manage to show that these faces contain more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the post of Posner wrote that he'd lately discovered that his grandfather, lobotomized and who he'd never met, had been institutionalized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I have never seen an image of my grandpa, never and I really don't care if it's an image of him having this done I only desire and desire 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 considerably more challenging for the commenter to locate her; the connection might not have been made. Std test in Grove Hall.
Finally, there is a religious argument for making such pictures available. MA 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 actually amazing files 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 sort of curriculum of human suffering. ... Looking at them makes life richer and deeper." Barnett, despite his misgivings, agrees on this particular 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 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, along with the conclusion that we all come to."
Still, 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 process of scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photos of suffering could be a memento mori " and function 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 reserved for being serious is difficult to come by." If she thought that about art galleries, novels, and television, one wonders what she might have made of Pinterest.
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