Information Professionals at the Crossroads of Enlightenment: A Critical Review of the Pernkopf Controversy

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Abstract

The discovery in the eighties of the Nazi origins of Pernkopf's Atlas of Topographic and Applied Human Anatomy, an anatomy book then considered a masterpiece and a scientific model in the field, has sparked an intense controversy among information professionals. At the heart of this was the ethical question of what to do with this tainted, yet brilliant, work of art. This article presents a brief summary of the history of the controversy and provides three categories of answers to the pivotal questions along with a critical analysis of the arguments that support them. The aim here is to show that the Pernkopf affair is an exemplary illustration of the essential task performed by information professionals, that of implementing the Enlightenment project, notably the enlightenment of the users of information pack- ages. Although the controversy did not and could not result in a knock-out argument, nor did it shed a definitive light on the issues raised, it has helped to reinforce awareness of the ethical dimension of information use for both professionals and the users they serve.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-34
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Information Ethics
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Library and Information Sciences

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