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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print display of pictures that are accessible on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about historical medical pictures, and when and in what media it is proper to see them. It's one thing to take a beautifully bound book apart into a silent armchair and have a one on one encounter with all with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumor, or the face of an infant wizened by tertiary syphilis. 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 the context of Barnett -providing scholarship.
Afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world organize the Sick Rose: cholera, gout, tuberculosis, advanced phases of syphilis. Online, the patients' anguish runs the risk of being seen as classic"---almost amusing in its terrible extremity and its distance from our own time. In a blog post about the method of assembling and later promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett acknowledged to a sense of unease" about sending the images off into the whole world, worrying concerning the kitsch, understanding, 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 images of something that occurred to someone somewhere. They're not envisioned."
As historical medical pictures go archivists, scholars and digital are being forced to consider the advantages of disseminating the fascinating and undoubtedly important record of the development of medical practice with issues the pictures will likely be misused and misunderstood. Making the images available will almost surely cause some tone-deaf uses, lacking empathy and aspect at best---exploiting the shock value of a disfigured face or body at worst. On the flip side, digitization of the kinds of images which were once accessible only to researchers with the means to travel to archives can do plenty of good. Such visibility can raise awareness about previous wrongs, ease the families of former patients and also links between historians supply us with a brand new approach to consider our own mortality. (Because there are good arguments on both sides, and because these medical images can be upsetting to some readers, we have chosen to place the photographs we're printing with this particular post behind a digital scrim, allowing you, the reader, to decide whether to view them.)
Here's one instance that demonstrates how far such digitized photos can slip 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 special component treating injuries that required maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to document his patients' presurgical injuries, using the pictures to plan the strategy of his team.
These photographs ended up on the Web as a portion of a mid-2000s exhibition titled Project Faade (now archived via the Wayback Machine ). The project, 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 art that Hartley made with inspiration from these archives afterwards formed the basis of an exhibit at the National Army Museum in London. The job, Hartley writes on his site , was intended to explore the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial operations on their lives.
After the exhibit had closed nevertheless, the digital images had another life. Some pictures from the Job Faade archive ended up used in the plan of the genetic mutants (splicers") that players of the videogame BioShock must battle. One of many patients in the photographs, Henry Lumley, a pilot trainee, was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school and lived with his injury for a year before being declared to Gillies' care. 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 compelled to wander around in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std test near me Lake Leelanau. Does this issue, given that many (most?) BioShock players WOn't ever understand who these guys 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 nearly shameful---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they diminish morale. So if gamers never realize the characters they are seeing on screen were once actual men, it can still feel like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again when they're trotted out as digitized monsters. Lake Leelanau, MI, 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 similar images are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a glance into what life must have been like for people who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How courageous these guys were to let themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to undergo treatments that frequently made them seem worse before they seemed better.")
Std test closest to Lake Leelanau. Dr. Andrew Bamji, the Gillies Archives' curator, told me over e-mail that he approached the game's programmers after finding out about this use and succeeded in contacting one. I pointed out that the use of identifiable guys in the context of the game was an appalling approach to heal the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no additional such images would be used, and there the matter finished." Bamji drew a clear distinction between the usage of such images in a job like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and stories of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade. Std test in Michigan. I don't have any problem with the display of images in a historic context, as without this folks don't comprehend what war can do."
Should we confine access to upsetting digital images to folks who we can be certain will perceive them in proper 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 groups have recently posted a series 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 film made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four kids that are dying of rabies. The patients convulse, struggle, 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 determine that the people can't handle looking at images that are such. 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 type of cop of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy movies from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the people in this film ... appear like they surely don't consent to the process, also it's upsetting to see. I could say 'This individual doesn't 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 understand?" The curiosity we feel about such images, he argues, is not shameful, but simply human.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This really is the case with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which comprises medical case files on individuals 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 happen with their case files vary widely, but some definitely need their files and images made accessible for research as a willful act to open up discourse."Of course, there is no way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they'd prefer to be viewed or remain concealed. Nevertheless, the modern example of thalidomide reveals that we must not presume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we suppose 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 committed to making her sources freely accessible. Lake Leelanau MI Std Test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when requested to collaborate on a slideshow of photographs that were lobotomy with a producer at NPR's show Science Friday. Neurologist Walter Freeman, who carried out more than 3,500 of the processes, photographed and patients his filmed before and after their surgeries.
But Posner finally 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 have the ability to reveal that these faces include more options than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the post of Posner wrote that he had lately learned that his grandfather, lobotomized and who he had never met, had been institutionalized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I have never seen a picture of my grandfather, never and I don't care if it is a picture of him having this done I need 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 more difficult for the commenter to locate her, if Posner had not gone with Science Friday; the connection might not have been made. Std test near Lake Leelanau.
Finally, there's a religious argument for making such pictures available. MI United States std test. Even if medical images may be abused, Michael Sappol says, I actually don't want that possibility to prevent these things that are actually amazing records of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they could redeem us in some way. They could provide us with some kind of curriculum of human suffering. ... Looking at them makes life richer and deeper." Barnett, despite his misgivings, concurs on this particular point: There is a power behind these pictures, there's a power they have over us, and we have to recognize or honor this at some point." He compares the pictures 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, pictures like those in the Sick Rose might remind us: This is the body, and the end that we all come to."
Still, a vanitas requires space for contemplation---a space the Web seems ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's final book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was composed as the Web was in the method of scattering pictures to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photographs of suffering might 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 difficult to come by." One wonders what she might have made of Pinterest if she thought that about television, books, and art galleries.
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