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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print presentation of pictures that are accessible digitally on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about historic medical images, and when and in what media it is appropriate to look at them. It's one thing to take a beautifully bound book apart into a quiet 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 tumor. It is another to see the exact same faces detached from Barnett's circumstance and flit by on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Twitter, in a jumble of other unrelated images -providing scholarship.
Afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world organize the Sick Rose: cholera, tuberculosis, gout, advanced phases of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' suffering runs the risk of being seen as vintage"---almost comical in its dreadful extremity and its distance from our own time. In a blog post about the procedure for assembling and after marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a feeling of unease" about sending the pictures away into the whole world, worrying regarding the kitsch, understanding, and emptily ironized approach" 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 digital, scholars and archivists are being forced to weigh the advantages of disseminating the fascinating and definitely significant record of the development of medical practice with concerns the pictures will likely be misunderstood and misused. Making the pictures accessible will most likely cause some tone deaf uses and regard at best---exploiting the shock value of an at body disfigured face or On the flip side, digitization of the sorts of pictures that were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do a great deal of good. Such visibility can raise consciousness about past wrongs, facilitate the families of former patients as well as links between historians supply us with a fresh way to consider our own mortality. (Because there are great arguments on both sides, and because these medical images may be upsetting to some readers, we've decided to place the photos we're printing with this particular article behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to choose whether to see them.)
Here's one case that demonstrates how far such digitized photographs can steal from their circumstances. 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 unit treating injuries that necessitated maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned artists and photographers to record his patients' presurgical injuries, using the images to plan his team's strategy.
These photographs ended up on the Web as part 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 from these archives with inspiration later formed the basis of an exhibition at London's National Army Museum. The job, Hartley writes on his site , was intended to explore the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and subsequent facial surgeries on their lives.
Following the exhibition had closed, nevertheless, the digital images had another life. Some pictures 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 many patients in the photographs, 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' care. Lumley died of postoperative complications, at age 26. (Here's his page on the Project Faade site And here's a picture 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 amusement of gamers.
Std test nearby Newport. 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 departure in battle as glorious, but facial mutilation was seen as virtually black---a fate worse than death"---and images of soldiers injured in this way were censored, lest they reduce morale. So even if gamers never understand the characters they are seeing on screen were once actual men, it can nevertheless feel when they are trotted out as digitized monsters like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Newport NH 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 later comparable images are used to frighten people in a computer game, gives us a glimpse into what life should have been like for folks who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How courageous these men were to let themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to undergo treatments that frequently made them appear worse before they appeared better.")
Std Test closest to Newport. 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 using identifiable guys in the circumstance of the game was an appalling way to take care of the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no further such images would be used, and there the matter ended." Bamji drew a clear distinction between using such pictures in a job like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade. Std test near New Hampshire. I have no problem with all the display of pictures in a historic context, as without this people don't comprehend what war can do."
Should we restrict accessibility to upsetting digital images to individuals who we can be certain 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 sets have recently posted a run of silent medical pictures from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which signify what Sappol calls hard themes": 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, 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 doesn't believe it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to decide that the public can not handle looking at pictures that are such. We are stewards of these historical materials," he told me. They do not belong to us. They belong to everybody. ... I wouldn't like to act on behalf of the subjects and arrogate to myself the job of being some sort of officer of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy pictures from the 1930s, Sappol says, Some of the people in this movie ... appear like they certainly don't consent to the process, plus it's disturbing to see. I really could say 'This individual doesn't need 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 pictures, he claims, is not shameful, but merely human.
The problem is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This is actually the case with 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 definitely want their files and images made available for research as a willful action to open up disagreement."Of course, there is no means to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be observed or stay concealed. But the modern case of thalidomide shows that we must not assume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we presume 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 freely available. Newport NH Std Test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when asked to collaborate on a slideshow of lobotomy pictures with a producer at NPR's show Science Friday. 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 simply asking viewers to take a second look at the before" images of patients, which Freeman presented for his own goals as broken," she might have the ability to show that these faces contain more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's place wrote that he had lately discovered that his grandpa, lobotomized and who he'd never met, had been institutionalized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I really don't care if it is an image of him having this done I merely want and desire to see a picture of him so MUCH, and I have never seen an image of my grandpa, never, ever. Can you tell me the way to get to these archives?" It might have been much tougher for the commenter to find her, if Posner hadn't gone ahead with Science Friday; the connection mightn't have been made. Std test near Newport.
Eventually, there's a religious argument for making such pictures accessible. NH United States std test. Even if medical pictures might be abused, Michael Sappol says, I don't need that possibility to prevent these things that are actually amazing files of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they can redeem us in some way. They can provide us with some type 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 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 secular 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 Actually the body, as well as the conclusion that we all come to."
Still, a vanitas demands 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 photos of suffering could 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 reserved for being serious is hard to come by." If she thought that about art galleries, books, and television, one wonders what she might have made of Pinterest.
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