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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print presentation of images that are accessible digitally on the Wellcome Images site, 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 aside into a silent armchair and have a one-on-one encounter with all the face of an infant wizened by tertiary syphilis, or with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumour. It is another to see the 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' anguish runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---nearly amusing in its awful extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the procedure for assembling and later promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a feeling of unease" about sending the images off into the entire world, worrying in regards to the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized attitude" that could greet the images. (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 images go archivists, scholars and digital are being compelled to consider the advantages of disseminating the interesting and definitely important record of the evolution of medical practice with matters the pictures will probably be misunderstood and misused. Making the pictures available will most likely cause some tone-deaf uses and respect at best---using the shock value of an at body disfigured face or worst. On the flip side, digitization of the sorts of pictures that were once accessible only to researchers with the means to travel to archives can do plenty of good. Such visibility can raise consciousness about previous wrongs, ease the families of former patients and links between historians , even supply us with a fresh strategy to consider our own mortality. (Because there are great arguments on both sides, and because these medical images can be disturbing to some readers, we've chosen to place the photographs we are printing with this post behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to decide whether to see them.)
Here's one case that shows how far such digitized photos can steal 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 specific component treating injuries that needed maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to record his patients' presurgical harms, using the pictures to plan the approach of his team.
These pictures ended up on the Web as a portion of a mid-2000s exhibit titled Project Faade (now archived via 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 graphics that Hartley made from these archives with inspiration after formed the foundation of an exhibit at London's National Army Museum. The endeavor, Hartley writes on his site , was intended to explore the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial operations on their lives.
Following the exhibit had closed but the digital images had another life. Some photos from the Project 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 pictures, 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 declared 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 forced to drift around in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std test closest to Harris. Does this issue, given that many (most?) BioShock players WOn't ever understand 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 nearly shameful---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they decrease morale. So even if gamers never realize that the characters they are seeing on screen were once real guys, it can still feel when they are trotted out as digitized monsters like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Harris, MI, 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 pictures are used to frighten people in a computer game, gives us a peek into what life should have been like for folks who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How courageous these men were to enable themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to experience treatments that frequently made them seem worse before they seemed better.")
Std Test nearest Harris. 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 use of identifiable guys 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 pictures would be utilized, and there the matter ended." Where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade Bamji drew a clear distinction between the usage of such pictures in a job like BioShock. Std Test closest to Michigan. I have no issue with the display of pictures in a historical context, as without this folks do not understand what war can do."
Should we limit accessibility to upsetting digital images to people 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 historic and modern medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital groups have lately posted a run of quiet medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which symbolize what Sappol calls challenging subjects": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 picture made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four kids who are dying of rabies. Struggle, the patients convulse, bleed from the mouth; they are inconsolable, even as offer them water or gloved adult hands reach from off screen to hold them.
Sappol does not think it should be the job of the librarian or archivist to decide that the people can't handle looking at such images. We're 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 officer of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy movies from the 1930s, Sappol says, Some of the men and women in this film ... seem like they surely don't consent to the procedure, plus it is upsetting to see. I really could say 'This man doesn't want 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 know?" The curiosity we feel about such images, he contends, is not black, but simply human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that some subjects favor visibility. This is actually the situation with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which contains medical case files on individuals 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 perspectives of thalidomiders themselves on what should happen with their case files vary widely, but some undoubtedly want their files and images made available for research as a willful action to open up debate."Of course, there's not any method 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 shows that we should not assume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we presume the Web is a less serious medium than the bound-and- printed book. Historian Miriam Posner, who wrote her dissertation on medical filmmaking, is additionally a digital historian dedicated to making her sources freely accessible. Harris, MI 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 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 finally went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by asking viewers to take a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own goals as broken," she may have the capacity to reveal that these faces comprise more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the place of Posner wrote that he'd 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 have not seen a picture of my grandpa, never, ever, and I really don't care if it is a picture of him having this done I desire and only want to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me the best way to get to these archives?" It might have been much tougher for the commenter to find her if Posner had not gone with Science Friday; the connection might not have been made. Std test nearest Harris.
Finally, there is a spiritual argument for making such images available. MI, United States Std Test. Even if medical pictures may be abused, Michael Sappol says, I actually don't desire that possibility to prevent these things that are really amazing records of the human encounter from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they are able to redeem us in some way. They could 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 point: There is a power behind these pictures, there is a power they have over us, and we've got to acknowledge or honor this at some point." He compares the pictures 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 Actually the body, and the conclusion that we all come to."
Still, a vanitas requires space for contemplation---a space the Web appears ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was written as the Web was in the method of scattering pictures 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 might work---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space allowed for being serious is challenging to come by." If she believed that about art galleries, novels, and television, one wonders what she may have made of Pinterest.
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