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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print display of images that are freely available on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about historic medical images, 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 with a dignified man with a bulbous, untreated pendant tumor, or the face of a baby wizened by tertiary syphilis. 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 pictures -supplying scholarship.
The Sick Rose is organized by afflictions, the majority of which are now rare in the Western world: cholera, gout, tuberculosis, advanced phases of syphilis. On the Internet, the patients' anguish runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---nearly funny in its horrible extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the method of assembling and after marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett acknowledged to a feeling of unease" about sending the pictures away into the 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're not envisioned."
As historic medical pictures go archivists, scholars and digital are being compelled to consider the advantages of disseminating the interesting and certainly important record of the development of medical practice with matters the pictures will likely be misunderstood and misused. Making the images accessible will almost certainly result in some tone-deaf uses and regard at best---manipulating the shock value of a disfigured face or body at worst. On the flip side, 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 previous wrongs, facilitate connections between historians and also the families of former patients , even provide us with a brand new 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've decided to put the photographs we are publishing with this specific article behind a digital scrim, which allows you, the reader, to choose whether to view them.)
Here's one instance that shows how far such digitized pictures can slip away 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 special unit treating injuries that required maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned artists and photographers to record his patients' presurgical injuries, using the pictures to plan his team's approach.
These photographs 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 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 graphics that Hartley made with inspiration from these archives later formed the basis of an exhibit at London's National Army Museum. The project, Hartley writes on his site , was intended to explore the impact of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial surgeries on their lives.
After the exhibition 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 photographs, a pilot trainee, Henry Lumley, was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school and lived with his injury 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 website And here's an image 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 amusement of gamers.
Std Test near me Keansburg. Does this matter, given that many (most?) BioShock players WOn't ever know 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 almost shameful---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this manner were censored, lest they diminish morale. So if gamers never understand that the characters they're seeing on screen were once real men, it can still feel like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again when they are trotted out as digitized monsters. Keansburg NJ 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 nearly 100 years after comparable pictures are used to frighten people in a computer game, gives us a glimpse into what life should have been like for folks who sustained such disfiguring injuries." (She adds: How courageous these men were to enable themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to get treatments that frequently made them seem worse before they appeared better.")
Std test in Keansburg. 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 use of identifiable men in the circumstance of the game was an appalling method to heal the memory of veterans," Bamji wrote. He apologized and assured me that no further such images would be utilized, and there the matter ended." Where they were disassociated from the names and stories of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade Bamji drew a clear distinction between the use of such pictures in a job like BioShock. Std Test closest to New Jersey. I don't have any 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 folks 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 collections have lately posted a string of silent medical pictures from between 1929 and 1945 , some of which symbolize 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. Fight, the patients convulse, bleed from the mouth; they're inconsolable, even as offer them water or gloved adult hands reach from off screen to hold them.
Sappol doesn't think it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to determine that the public can not handle looking at such pictures. We're stewards of these historical materials," he told me. They do not belong to us. They belong to everybody. ... I wouldn't like to play on behalf of the areas and arrogate to myself the occupation of being some type 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 picture ... seem like they surely don't consent to the process, also it is upsetting to see. I could say 'This man does not 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 know?" The fascination we feel about such images, he contends, is not black, but merely human.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that visibility is preferred by some subjects. This really is the case with the Thalidomide Trust archive, which comprises medical case files on people 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 definitely need their files and pictures made accessible for research as a purposeful action to open up discourse."Of course, there is not any means to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be seen or remain hidden. Nevertheless, the modern example of thalidomide reveals that we should not assume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we assume 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 committed to making her sources publicly accessible. Keansburg, NJ 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 photographs that were lobotomy. 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 take a second look at the before" pictures of patients, which Freeman presented for his own motives as broken," she might manage to show that these faces contain more options than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's place wrote that he had lately discovered that his grandpa, who he'd never met, had been institutionalized and lobotomized in West Virginia, where Freeman did some of his work. The commenter wrote: I actually don't care if it is a picture of him having this done I just want and need to see a picture of him so MUCH, and I have never seen a picture of my grandpa, never, ever. Can you tell me the best way to get to these archives?" If Posner hadn't gone with Science Friday, it might have been much more challenging for the commenter to locate her; the connection mightn't have been made. Std Test near Keansburg.
Eventually, there's a religious argument for making such pictures accessible. NJ United States Std Test. Even if medical images may be misused, Michael Sappol says, I actually don't need that chance 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 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, concurs on this particular point: There's a power behind these images, there is a power they have over us, and we've got to accept 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 Actually the body, and also the conclusion that we all come to."
However, a vanitas demands space for contemplation---a space the Web appears ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's closing book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was composed as the Web was in the method of scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that pictures of suffering could be a memento mori " and serve as a still point around which to consider mortality. But she wondered how this may work---or fail to work---in a modern society," where space allowed for being serious is tough to come by." If she believed that about art galleries, publications, and television, one wonders what she may have made of Pinterest.
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