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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a good-curated print presentation of images that are accessible on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about medical images that are historical, and when and in what media it's appropriate to look at them. It is 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 tumor, or the face of a baby wizened by tertiary syphilis. It is 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.
Afflictions, the majority of which are now rare in the Western world organize the Sick Rose: cholera, tuberculosis, gout, advanced phases of syphilis. Online, the patients' anguish runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---almost comical in its terrible extremity and its distance from our own time. In a blog post about the procedure for assembling and later marketing The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a feeling of unease" about sending the pictures off into the whole world, worrying regarding the kitsch, knowing, and emptily ironized attitude" that could greet the pictures. (When Wired ran a slideshow of photographs from Sick Rose in May, for instance, 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 historic medical images go archivists, scholars and digital are being forced to weigh the benefits of disseminating the fascinating and definitely significant record of the evolution of medical practice with issues the pictures will be misused and misunderstood. Making the pictures accessible will almost certainly lead to some tone deaf uses and regard at best---using the shock value of an at body disfigured face or On the other hand, digitization of the types of pictures which were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do plenty of great. Such visibility can raise awareness about past wrongs, facilitate connections between historians as well as the families of former patients , even supply us with a fresh approach to think about our own mortality. (Because there are excellent arguments on both sides, and because these medical images may be disturbing to some readers, we've chosen to put the photographs we're publishing with this post behind a digital scrim, which allows you, the reader, to choose whether to see them.)
Here's one instance that demonstrates how much such digitized photos can slip away from their contexts. Art historian Suzannah Biernoff has written about the destiny 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 needed maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to document his patients' presurgical injuries, using the pictures to plan his team's approach.
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 job, 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 visuals 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 intended to explore the effect of veterans' wartime injuries and following facial surgeries on their lives.
Following the exhibit had closed, nevertheless, the digital images had another life. Some pictures from the Project Faade archive ended up used in the design 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, lived with his injury for a year and was injured on the day of his graduation from flying school before being admitted to Gillies' care. Lumley died at age 26, of postoperative complications. (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 roam around in virtual space, made into monsters for the amusement of gamers.
Std Test near me Mine Hill. 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 death in battle as glorious, but facial mutilation was seen as virtually shameful---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 are seeing on screen were once real men, it can still feel like these guys, ostracized in life, are being wronged again when they're trotted out as digitized monsters. Mine Hill NJ 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 almost 100 years after comparable images are used to frighten folks in a computer game, gives us a peek into what life should have been like for individuals who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How courageous these guys were to allow themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to get treatments that often made them look worse before they appeared better.")
Std Test near Mine Hill. 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 the use of identifiable men in the circumstance of the game was an appalling way 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." Where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and Hartley's Project Faade Bamji drew a clear distinction between the usage of such images in a project like BioShock. Std Test in New Jersey. I have no problem with the display of pictures in a historic context, as without this people do not comprehend what war can do."
Should we confine accessibility to upsetting digital images to folks who we can be sure will perceive them in appropriate context? Michael Sappol , a historian at the U.S. National Library of Medicine who has written about historic and contemporary medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital sets have recently posted a run of quiet medical movies from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which represent what Sappol calls challenging subjects": 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. 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 believe it should be the occupation of the librarian or archivist to decide that the people 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 would not like to play on behalf of the subjects and arrogate to myself the job of being some type of officer of 'who can view.' " With the NLM's electroshock therapy films from the 1930s, Sappol says, Some of the men and women in this movie ... seem like they certainly do not consent to the procedure, and it is upsetting to see. I really could say 'This person doesn't want to be on camera, they're being humiliated.' But this is from. If we never get to see this, who gets to know?" The interest we feel about such images, he asserts, is not shameful, but merely human.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that a few subjects prefer visibility. This is the situation with all the Thalidomide Trust archive, which comprises medical case files on folks 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 occur with their case files vary widely, but some undoubtedly need their files and images made available for research as a willful act to open up debate."Of course, there's not any way to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be observed or remain concealed. Nevertheless, the modern case of thalidomide demonstrates that we should not presume that publication is tantamount to breach.
Nor should we assume that 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 dedicated to making her sources freely accessible. Mine Hill NJ std test. In 2010, Posner posted about the ethical quandary she faced when asked 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 processes, photographed and patients his filmed before and after their surgeries.
But Posner finally 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 goals as broken," she might have the ability to reveal that these faces comprise more possibilities than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on Posner's place wrote that he had recently learned that his grandfather, lobotomized and who he had never met, had been institutionalized in West Virginia, where Freeman did some of his work. The commenter wrote: I haven't seen a picture of my grandfather, never, ever, and I actually don't care if it's a graphic of him having this done I need and merely desire to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me how to get to these archives?" It might have been considerably more difficult for the commenter to find her if Posner had not gone with Science Friday; the connection might not have been made. Std test nearest Mine Hill.
Finally, there's a spiritual argument for making such pictures accessible. NJ, United States Std Test. Even if medical images might be abused, Michael Sappol says, I really don't want that possibility to prevent these things that are really amazing files of the human experience from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they are able to redeem us in some way. They can provide us with some kind of program 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's a power they have over us, and we've got to acknowledge or respect this at some point." He compares the pictures 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, along with the end that we all come to."
However, a vanitas demands space for contemplation---a space the Web looks ill prepared to offer. Susan Sontag's closing book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was composed as the Web was in the procedure for scattering photographs to the four winds. Sontag wrote that pictures of suffering might be a memento mori " and serve as a still point around which to contemplate mortality. But she wondered how this could function---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, books, and television, one wonders what she may have made of Pinterest.
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