I was fascinated to read in this morning’s Boston Globe that a new and compelling image of Phineas Gage has recently been uncovered. Gage is the famous 19th century Vermonter who was shot through the head with a piece of iron in an industrial accident, and survived–but with his personality completely changed. He became the subject of one of the most famous medical cases in history, illustrating the functions of different parts of the human brain. The photo was identified because the owner scanned it and posted it on Flickr. What a great example of how content on the open web takes on a life of its own, and becomes something entirely different from what we thought, something that no longer belongs to us alone. In this case, the owner of the photo (it’s actually a daguerreotype) originally thought it depicted a 19th century sailor with a harpoon. But a Flickr viewer recognized it as something else. High resolution scanning and zooming confirmed that the man is indeed Gage Now the daguerreotype is no longer just a curio belonging to a collector, but an cultural artifact that belongs all of us. I wonder what our viewers will uncover from the images published in the NU library’s Archives and Special Collections. Are there Phineas Gages in our digital collections, waiting for you to discover them?
Comments are closed.
What a great story!