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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print presentation of images that are accessible on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about medical images that are historical, and when and in what media it is proper to see them. It's 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 a baby wizened by tertiary syphilis. It is another to see the same faces detached from Barnett's circumstance and flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images -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 vintage"---nearly funny in its terrible extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the method of assembling and later promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a feeling of unease" about sending the pictures away into the world, worrying about 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 archivists, scholars and digital are being compelled to consider the benefits of disseminating the undoubtedly important and fascinating record of the evolution of medical practice with matters the images will soon be misused and misunderstood. Making the pictures accessible will almost surely cause some tone deaf uses and regard at best---exploiting the shock value of a disfigured face or body at On the other hand, digitization of the kinds of pictures that were once accessible only to researchers with the means to travel to archives can do a great deal of great. Such visibility can raise consciousness about past wrongs, ease the families of former patients as well as connections between historians provide us with a new strategy to consider our own mortality. (Because there are good arguments on either side, and because these medical images can be upsetting to some readers, we have decided to put the pictures we are publishing with this article behind an electronic scrim, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether to see them.)
Here's one instance that demonstrates how far such digitized pictures can slip from their contexts. Art historian Suzannah Biernoff has written about the destiny 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 special unit treating injuries that required maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to document his patients' presurgical injuries, using the images to plan his team's strategy.
These pictures ended up on the Web as part of a mid-2000s exhibit titled Project Faade (now archived via 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 later formed the basis of an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. The job, Hartley writes on his website , was meant to explore the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial operations on their lives.
Following the exhibition had closed, but the digital images had another life. 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. 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 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 website And here's an image of the BioShock character in question) Lumley and his fellow patients are now compelled to roam around in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std Test in Colon. 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 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 reduce morale. So even if gamers never understand that the characters they are seeing on screen were once real guys, it can still feel like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again when they're trotted out as digitized monsters. Colon MI 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 almost 100 years later similar pictures are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a peek into what life must have been like for folks who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How courageous these guys were to permit themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to undergo treatments that frequently made them appear worse before they looked better.")
Std test in Colon. 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 circumstance of the game was an appalling approach to heal the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no further such images would be utilized, and there the matter finished." Bamji drew a clear distinction between the utilization of such images 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 near Michigan. I don't have any issue with the display of images in a historic context, as without this folks don't comprehend what war can do."
Should we limit access to upsetting digital images to people 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 modern medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital collections have recently posted a number of quiet medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which signify what Sappol calls difficult subjects": 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, 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 does not think it should be the job of the librarian or archivist to determine that the public can't handle looking at pictures that are such. 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 type of policeman of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy pictures from the 1930s, Sappol says, Some of the men and women in this picture ... look like they surely don't consent to the procedure, and it is upsetting to see. I really could say 'This person doesn't desire to be on camera, they're being humiliated.' But this is from. If we never get to see this, who gets to know?" The interest we feel about such pictures, he contends, is not shameful, but only human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. 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 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 vary widely, but some undoubtedly need their files and images made accessible for research as a purposeful action to open up discourse."Of course, there's not any means to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be seen or remain hidden. But the modern example of thalidomide reveals that we should not suppose 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 also a digital historian dedicated to making her sources publicly available. Colon, MI 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 photos that were lobotomy. Neurologist Walter Freeman, who carried out more than 3,500 of the procedures, photographed and filmed his patients before and after their surgeries.
But Posner ultimately went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by asking observers to take a second look at the before" pictures of patients, which Freeman presented for his own goals as broken," she may be able to show that these faces feature more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's place wrote that he had recently learned that his grandpa, who he had never met, had been institutionalized and lobotomized in West Virginia, where Freeman did some of his work. The commenter wrote: I do not care if it is an image of him having this done I only want and need to see a picture of him so MUCH, and I have never seen an image of my grandpa, never, ever. Can you tell me how to get to these archives?" If Posner hadn't gone with Science Friday, it might have been considerably more difficult for the commenter to locate her; the connection might not have been made. Std Test closest to Colon.
Eventually, there is a religious argument for making such pictures accessible. MI United States std test. Even if medical pictures might be abused, Michael Sappol says, I do not need that chance to prevent these things that are really amazing records of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they could redeem us in some way. They can supply us with some type 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 images, there's a power they have over us, and we have to accept or honor 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, images like those in the Sick Rose might remind us: This is the body, as well as the end that we all come to."
However, a vanitas needs space for contemplation---a space the Web appears ill to offer. Susan Sontag's closing book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was composed as the Web was in the process of scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photographs of suffering could be a memento mori " and function as a still point around which to consider mortality. But she wondered how this could function---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space allowed for being serious is hard to come by." One wonders what she may have made of Pinterest if she thought that about publications, art galleries, and television.
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