Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wired article drives visitors to Flickr site

Last night around 10:20 we had 65,070 views. This morning at 4:45: 82,395. At 2pm: 173,792 views. At 7:15 pm: 246,540 views. At 7:36: 252,951 views. At 11:10: 310,089. And that's for 816 pictures.

Some people have been asking about HIPAA, which provides for privacy of medical records. These photographs were taken for medical education by various sources including the Army Medical Museum's Museum & Medical Arts Service (MAMAS) photographers which had no role in treating patients (or an electronic billing relationship with them which is the main criteria for applying HIPAA), but was sent out to theaters of war to take pictures. Additionally, when we created the scanning database, we did not capture the name of the patient. We have tried to be very careful about selecting images that are anonymous UNLESS the photograph was previously published with the names included (as all the Civil War and Signal Corps pictures were). The whole secure scanning database of over 500,000 images, which is not available to the general public, has many restricted images that only administrators can see. We'll continue to make a subset of them available somehow, but keep in mind that with over 2500 boxes of photographs - it's going to take a long time and there's a lot of junk.

These photographs have been available to the public as part of the AFIP's Medical Illustration Service Library since the 1940s - this is just the first time that they have been easily viewable without visiting Washington, DC. The other half of the old Army Medical Museum & Library's collection was put online years ago by the National Library of Medicine (which has a far larger budget than we do) -

Another excellent source is the Wellcome's photo library, which like ours, includes clinical images of diseases (which the Library of Medicine does not).

Finally about that 'permission' thing in the Wired article - what we're waiting on is permission to join Flickr Commons, which asked us last year and has certain legal requirements, not permission to post public domain photographs online. We can ask our web manager to post them on our own website - Flickr just has far more viewers and we could do it ourself in seconds once upon a time.

Anyone interested in the history of the medical museum and photographs may want to read this article.


Anonymous said...

This is such a great initiative! I put a post up about it.

Mike Rhode said...

Thank you!