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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print presentation of images that are available digitally on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about medical pictures that are historical, and when and in what media it's proper to view them. It is one thing to take a beautifully bound book apart 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 tumour. It is another to see the same faces detached from the circumstance of Barnett and flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images -providing scholarship.
The Sick Rose is organized by afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world: cholera, gout, tuberculosis, advanced stages of syphilis. Online, the patients' suffering runs the risk of being seen as classic"---almost funny in its dreadful extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the method of assembling and after marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a feeling of unease" about sending the images away into the world, worrying regarding the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized approach" 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 images of something that occurred to someone somewhere. They're not visualized."
As historical medical pictures go archivists, scholars and digital are being forced to consider the advantages of disseminating the unquestionably important and interesting record of the evolution of medical practice with concerns that the images will probably be misused and misunderstood. Making the pictures accessible will probably result in some tone deaf uses and aspect at best---manipulating the shock value of an at body disfigured face or worst. On the flip side, digitization of the sorts of images 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 connections between historians and the families of former patients provide us with a fresh way to think of our own mortality. (Because there are excellent arguments on both sides, and because these medical images could be upsetting to some readers, we have chosen to set the pictures we're printing with this particular post behind a digital scrim, which allows you, the reader, to choose whether to view them.)
Here's one instance that demonstrates how much 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 record his patients' presurgical injuries, using the pictures to plan the strategy of his team.
These pictures ended up on the Web as part of a mid-2000s exhibit titled Project Faade (now archived through the Wayback Machine ). The project, 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 graphics that Hartley made with inspiration from these archives after formed the foundation of an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. The endeavor, Hartley writes on his website , was meant to explore the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial surgeries on their lives.
After the exhibit had closed, nevertheless, the digital images had another life. Some photographs 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 the patients in the pictures, 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 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 amusement of gamers.
Std Test near me Saint Ignace. Does this matter, 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 death in battle as glorious, but facial mutilation was seen as almost black---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 the characters they're seeing on screen were once actual guys, it can nevertheless feel when they're trotted out as digitized monsters like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Saint Ignace MI, United States std test. As Wellcome Library archivist Natalie Walters pointed out in a post on the connection between BioShock and also the Gillies Archive: That almost 100 years after similar images are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a glance into what life should have been like for folks who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How brave these guys were to enable themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to experience treatments that often made them seem worse before they seemed better.")
Std test in Saint Ignace. Dr. Andrew Bamji, the Gillies Archives' curator, told me over e-mail 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 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 utilized, and there the matter ended." Bamji drew a clear distinction between using such images in a project like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade. Std test near me Michigan. I have no problem with the display of images in a historic context, as without this folks do not comprehend what war can do."
Should we restrict access to upsetting digital images to people 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 modern medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital collections have lately posted a series of silent medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which symbolize what Sappol calls tough issues": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 film made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four children who are dying of rabies. Fight, 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 doesn't believe it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to decide that the public can't handle looking at pictures 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 play on behalf of the subjects and arrogate to myself the occupation of being some sort of cop of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy pictures from the 1930s, Sappol says, A Number of the folks in this picture ... look like they definitely do not consent to the process, plus it is disturbing to see. I could say 'This individual 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 understand?" The fascination we feel about such pictures, he claims, isn't black, but only human.
The problem is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is the case with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which contains medical case files on folks born withsevere birth defects after their mothers took the drug thalidomide to alleviate 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 occur with their case files fluctuate widely, but some definitely want their files and images made accessible for research as a deliberate action to open up disagreement."Of course, there is no means to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they'd prefer to be viewed or remain concealed. Nevertheless, the modern case of thalidomide demonstrates that we must not suppose that publication is tantamount to violation.
Nor should we presume 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 also a digital historian dedicated to making her sources freely available. Saint Ignace 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 lobotomy photographs. Neurologist Walter Freeman, who carried out more than 3,500 of the procedures, photographed and filmed his patients before and after their operations.
But Posner ultimately went ahead with the Science Friday slideshow, reasoning that by simply asking audiences to choose a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own motives as broken," she may have the capacity to show that these faces feature more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the place of Posner wrote that he had recently learned that his grandfather, lobotomized and who he had never met, had been institutionalized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I haven't seen a picture of my grandpa, never, ever, and 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. Can you tell me the way to get to these archives?" If Posner hadn't gone ahead with Science Friday, it might have been considerably tougher for the commenter to locate her; the connection mightn't have been made. Std Test nearby Saint Ignace.
Finally, there's a religious argument for making such pictures accessible. MI, United States Std Test. Even if medical pictures might be misused, Michael Sappol says, I actually don't want that possibility to prevent these things that are actually amazing records of the human encounter from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they can redeem us in some way. They could supply us with some kind of program 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 images, there's a power they have over us, and we have to recognize 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, and also the end that we all come to."
However, a vanitas demands space for contemplation---a space the Web looks 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 pictures to the four winds. Sontag wrote that photographs of suffering could be a memento mori " and serve as a still point around which to consider mortality. But she wondered how this may function---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space reserved for being serious is challenging to come by." If she believed that about television, novels, and art galleries, one wonders what she may have made of Pinterest.
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