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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print presentation of pictures that are accessible digitally on the Wellcome Images site, raises questions about historical medical images, and when and in what media it's proper to look at them. It's one thing to take a beautifully bound book aside into a silent 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's another to see the exact same faces detached from the context 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 phases of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' anguish runs the risk of being seen as classic"---nearly amusing in its awful extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the procedure for assembling and after promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a sense of unease" about sending the images away into the whole world, worrying in regards to 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 images of something that happened to someone somewhere. They're not visualized."
As historical medical images go archivists, scholars and digital are being compelled to consider the benefits of disseminating the undoubtedly significant and fascinating record of the progression of medical practice with issues that the pictures will soon be misunderstood and misused. Making the pictures accessible will probably lead to some tone-deaf uses, lacking empathy and respect at best---manipulating the shock value of a disfigured face or body at worst. On the other hand, digitization of the sorts of images that were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do a great deal of great. Such visibility can raise awareness about past wrongs, ease the families of former patients and connections between historians provide us with a fresh way to think of our own mortality. (Because there are great arguments on both sides, and because these medical images may be disturbing to some readers, we have decided to place the photographs we are publishing with this post behind an electronic scrim, which allows you, the reader, to decide whether to view them.)
Here's one case that demonstrates how much such digitized pictures 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 special component treating injuries that demanded maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to record his patients' presurgical injuries, using the images to plan his team's approach.
These pictures ended up on the Web as a portion of a mid-2000s exhibition 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 with inspiration from these archives later formed the basis of an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. The job, Hartley writes on his web site , was meant to explore the impact 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 Project Faade archive ended up used in the plan of the genetic mutants (splicers") that players of the videogame BioShock must battle. Among the patients in the photographs, Henry Lumley, a pilot trainee, was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school and lived with his harm for a year before being declared to Gillies' attention. Lumley died at age 26, of postoperative complications. (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 compelled to drift around in virtual space, made into monsters for the entertainment of gamers.
Std test near me Allentown. Does this issue, given that many (most?) BioShock players WOn't ever know 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 nearly black---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're seeing on screen were once actual men, it can nevertheless feel when they're trotted out as digitized monsters like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again. Allentown, NJ 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 nearly 100 years later comparable pictures are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a peek into what life must have been like for individuals who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How brave these guys were to permit themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to get treatments that often made them seem worse before they seemed better.")
Std Test closest to Allentown. 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 way to heal the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no additional such pictures would be utilized, and there the matter ended." Bamji drew a clear distinction between the utilization of such pictures in a job like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and stories of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade. Std test near me New Jersey. I don't have any problem with the display of pictures in a historical context, as without this people don't comprehend what war can do."
Should we confine accessibility to upsetting digital images to folks 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 groups have recently posted a series of hushed medical pictures from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which symbolize what Sappol calls challenging themes": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 movie made at Cook County Hospital in Chicago , which shows four kids that are dying of rabies. Fight, the patients convulse, 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 believe it should be the job of the librarian or archivist to determine that the people can not handle looking at such pictures. 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 subjects and arrogate to myself the occupation of being some type of policeman of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy films from the 1930s, Sappol says, Some of the people in this movie ... appear like they definitely don't consent to the process, also it is disturbing to see. I could say 'This man doesn't need 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 understand?" The fascination we feel about such images, he argues, is not shameful, but just human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that a few subjects prefer visibility. This is actually the case 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 alleviate 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 fluctuate widely, but some undoubtedly need their files and images made available for research as a deliberate act to open up discussion."Of course, there's not any method to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be seen or remain concealed. But the modern case of thalidomide demonstrates that we must not assume that publication is tantamount to violation.
Nor should we assume that the Web is a serious medium than the bound-and- printed book. Historian Miriam Posner, who wrote her dissertation on medical filmmaking, is also a digital historian committed to making her sources freely accessible. Allentown, NJ std test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when asked to collaborate on a slideshow of lobotomy photographs 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 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 motives as broken," she may have the ability to reveal that these faces comprise more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's post wrote that he'd lately discovered that his grandfather, who he'd never met, had been institutionalized and lobotomized in West Virginia. The commenter wrote: I have not seen a picture of my grandfather, never and I actually don't care if it's an image of him having this done I only desire and need to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me the best way to get to these archives?" If Posner had not gone ahead with Science Friday, it might have been considerably harder for the commenter to locate her; the connection might not have been made. Std Test nearest Allentown.
Eventually, there's a spiritual argument for making such images accessible. NJ United States std test. Even if medical pictures may be abused, Michael Sappol says, I really don't want that possibility to prevent these things that are actually amazing documents of the human encounter from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they could redeem us in some way. They are able to supply us with some kind 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 images, there is 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, pictures like those in the Sick Rose might remind us: This is the body, and also the conclusion that we all come to."
Still, a vanitas demands space for contemplation---a space the Web appears 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 contemplate mortality. But she wondered how this may work---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space reserved for being serious is hard to come by." One wonders what she might have made of Pinterest if she believed that about publications, art galleries, and television.
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