Thursday, December 4, 2008

Surgical Photographs

I've been reviewing the work our scanning contractor has been doing for us. It's a never-ending job because of the volume of images they're handling. We actually scanned the Surgical Photos in-house and sent them and the database to the contractor for upload, but I'm still going through them to make sure we sent all versions of a particular case. For instance, many of the photos in this collection are of Civil War soldiers showing their healed wounds, and many of those are wounds or amputations of the leg up to the hip. These men were often photographed without draping them in some way to protect their modesty. I personally am surprised at that, but that's how it was done.

However, some of these photos were displayed at the 1876 World Exposition in Philadelphia and it was then that modesty prevailed. Or, rather, as Mike and J.T.H. Connor wrote in Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Images, Memory, and Identity in America, it appeared that the issue was less about protecting the men's identity and modesty than it was about not offending the potential audience.

In any case, we have more than one version of some of these photos: those with fig leaves and those without, and I've been going through the 400 in the collection to make sure that all versions were uploaded.

Not all of the photos are of soldiers, though. Here's one of a young boy who was shot in the head with a shotgun. It's called Successful Operation of Trephining of Cranium for Gunshot Injury.

And here's the case history:

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