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The experience of looking at The Sick Rose, which is a well-curated print presentation of images that are freely available on the Wellcome Images website, raises questions about medical images that are historic, and when and in what media it's appropriate to see them. It is one thing to take a beautifully bound book aside 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 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 formed by afflictions, most of which are now rare in the Western world: cholera, tuberculosis, gout, advanced phases of syphilis. Online, the patients' anguish runs the danger of being seen as vintage"---almost funny in its horrible extremity and its space from our own time. In a blog post about the procedure for assembling and later promoting The Sick Rose, Barnett admitted to a sense of unease" about sending the images away into the world, worrying concerning 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 example, it was headlined Awesomely Gross Medical Illustrations From the 19th Century") Over Skype, Barnett told me: These are all pictures of something that occurred to someone somewhere. They aren't visualized."
As historic medical pictures go digital, scholars and archivists are being compelled to weigh the benefits of disseminating the fascinating and definitely significant record of the progression of medical practice with issues that the pictures will probably be misunderstood and misused. Making the pictures available will probably cause some tone deaf uses, lacking empathy and regard at best---manipulating the shock value of an at body disfigured face or worst. On the other hand, digitization of the types of images which were once available only to researchers with the resources to travel to archives can do lots of good. Such visibility can raise consciousness about previous wrongs, ease the families of former patients and also connections between historians supply us with a brand new approach to think of our own mortality. (Because there are good arguments on either side, and because these medical images can be upsetting to some readers, we have decided to set the photos we're publishing with this specific post behind a digital scrim, which allows you, the reader, to decide whether to see them.)
Here's one case that shows how far such digitized pictures can steal from their circumstances. Art historian Suzannah Biernoff has written about the fate 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 component treating injuries that necessitated maxillofacial surgery. Gillies commissioned photographers and artists to document his patients' presurgical harms, using the pictures to plan his team's strategy.
These photographs ended up on the Web as a portion of a mid-2000s exhibition titled Project Faade (now archived through 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 from these archives with inspiration afterwards formed the foundation of an exhibition at the National Army Museum in London. The endeavor, 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 exhibition had closed, but 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. Among the patients in the pictures, Henry Lumley, a pilot trainee, 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 compelled to roam about in virtual space, made into monsters for the amusement of gamers.
Std test closest to Somerdale. Does this matter, given that many (most?) BioShock players will never 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 virtually shameful---a fate worse than death"---and pictures of soldiers injured in this way were censored, lest they diminish morale. So even if gamers never understand the characters they're seeing on screen were once real guys, it can still feel like these men, ostracized in life, are being wronged again when they're trotted out as digitized monsters. Somerdale, NJ United States Std Test. As Wellcome Library archivist Natalie Walters pointed out in a post on the connection between BioShock and the Gillies Archive: That nearly 100 years later comparable images are used to frighten people in a computer game, gives us a peek into what life should have been like for folks who endured such disfiguring injuries." (She includes: How courageous these men were to permit themselves to be photographed with extensive injuries, and to experience treatments that often made them appear worse before they appeared better.")
Std test nearby Somerdale. 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 using identifiable men in the circumstance 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 finished." Bamji drew a clear distinction between the utilization of such pictures in a project like BioShock, where they were disassociated from the names and narratives of the patients, and the Project Faade of Hartley. Std test nearby New Jersey. I don't have any issue with all the display of images in a historic context, as without this folks don't understand what war can do."
Should we limit access to upsetting digital images to people 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 modern medical display, has an argument to the contrary. The NLM's digital groups have recently posted a string of quiet medical films from between 1929 and 1945 , a few of which symbolize what Sappol calls challenging subjects": leprosy, electroshock, schizophrenia. Sappol mentions, in particular, this 1929 movie 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 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 public can not handle looking at images that are such. We are 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 pictures from the 1930s, Sappol says, Some of the people in this movie ... appear like they surely don't consent to the process, and it's disturbing to see. I really could say 'This man doesn't desire 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 interest we feel about such pictures, he argues, isn't black, but only human.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that a few subjects favor visibility. This really is the case with the Thalidomide Trust archive, which comprises medical case files on folks 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 views of thalidomiders themselves on what should happen with their case files vary widely, but some undoubtedly want their files and images made accessible for research as a purposeful act to open up debate."Of course, there is not any method to ask the patients whose bodies appear in The Sick Rose whether they would prefer to be seen or stay hidden. But the modern example of thalidomide reveals that we must not presume that publication is tantamount to infringement.
Nor should we presume that the Web is a 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 freely available. Somerdale 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 simply asking viewers to choose a second look at the before" pictures of patients, which Freeman presented for his own motives as broken," she may manage to reveal that these faces comprise more options than Freeman ever saw." A commenter on the post of Posner wrote that he'd lately discovered that his grandfather, who he'd never met, had been institutionalized and lobotomized in West Virginia, where Freeman did some of his work. The commenter wrote: I have not seen a picture of my grandfather, never and I really don't care if it is an image of him having this done I desire and just desire to see a picture of him so MUCH. Can you tell me the best way to get to these archives?" It might have been much more challenging for the commenter to locate her, if Posner hadn't gone ahead with Science Friday; the connection might not have been made. Std Test near Somerdale.
Finally, there's a religious argument for making such images accessible. NJ United States std test. Even if medical images may be misused, Michael Sappol says, I actually don't desire that chance to prevent these things that are really amazing files of the human encounter from being seen. ... We can learn from them, they are able to redeem us in some way. They could provide us with some form 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 recognize 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, images like those in the Sick Rose might remind us: This is the body, as well as the conclusion that we all come to."
However, 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 photos to the four winds. Sontag wrote that pictures of suffering could 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 allowed for being serious is hard to come by." One wonders what she might have made of Pinterest if she thought that about television, publications, and art galleries.
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