||INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR THE HISTORY OF NURSING AND NURSING THINKING|
"...we live in a consumerist society without
stopping, which devours, through global media, inventions and images more avidly
than any other product of the market"
Texts about Spanish History of Nursing have so far showed a noticeable lack of interest for iconographical resources, particularly, for photography as a documentary source. The limited use of images as historical support when documenting historical events has been a constant in Spanish nursing historiography. The number of texts that make use of images is extremely small and, when included, historians resort to them with a merely illustrative purpose rather than a documentary one.
This ascertainment motivated our search for the reasons behind this particular disciplinary behaviour. We believe that the first reason is hidden behind this historical discipline's historigraphical background itself, where the use of images has not been at all popular (Díaz Barrado, 1996)1. Historians, in general terms, have considered written documents to be more valuable and reliable than images. The second reason could be the consequence of the environment where nursing historical events have taken place throughout the time. Access to this environment has been limited for photographers due to the fact that these spaces have been reserved only to the professional eye. There is a third reason which is related to the invisibility and opacity of nurses' images, visible, if at all, from a medical dimension (Galindo, 2003)2.
However, we understand that nursing history cannot be taken away from the powerful influx of the image, ignoring iconographical documents that could be used as historical sources with which to construct the history of nursing.
Images, as elements of communication and information, have accompanied men imprinted on various and diverse materials, from the walls of prehistoric caves to today's modern digital supports. Some of these images constitute historical documents, and it is precisely one of the means through which to capture these images that has most attracted our attention. We are talking about photography, which, having taken its first steps during the first half of the nineteenth century expanded its potential more and more everyday.
Our historiographic proposal dares to suggest a change in the way we write history, which consists in collecting all those images that should not be ignored or discarded any longer and that are part of a history that can and must be investigated, and bringing them all to the table of the nursing historian. It will not be easy. The analysis of these images will require training although, as in other occasion, the historian does not lack methods with which to tackle this task. Both Iconography3 and iconology4 will help us to decipher the history revealed through these images. Nevertheless, the first task that historians will have to assume is to recover significant images. Access to archives and collections containing images is not easy in our country, where images have received such little attention. In addition, the area of research of the nursing image itself will create specific difficulties that must also be taken into account. For this reason, the first task that we must face as nursing history researchers will be to contribute to the compilation of unknown iconographic material, that might be disperse and unclassified, and without which the construction of the complete history of Spanish nursing will become impossible.
We will keep working on the nursing history in the future, contributing to enrich nursing's professional identity. However, this future, which will not be the same any more, will regard images as indispensable. The history of nursing needs images, as images are considered to be a powerful and irreplaceable tool in the hands of the researcher in the future. Images constitute very useful historical documents, as they adapt perfectly to the new and "curious" eyes of the researcher.
1. Díaz Barrado MP. La
fotografía y los nuevos soportes para la información. Ayer 1996;