Day 3: Films, reports, and The Opal
I was worried about today after yesterday’s discouragements and was really in poor spirits when I woke up feeling horrible after eating some questionable pizza delivery last night….But I arrived to sign in at the Archives this morning only to find that my new favourite Curator, Craig Williams, had left me a gift! He gave me a copy of two films: one was made at Hudson River (circa 1960s) and the other at Utica (circa 1920s) – and they are so freakin’ cool! Both run along the same premise of tracing the path from admittance to discharge but in slightly different ways. I smell a film night when I get back to T.O.! (No, the links are not to the actual videos I got)
Spent the rest of the day doing some “grunt” work: sorting through roughly 50+ years worth of annual reports for Willard. Annual reports are about the least exciting thing to read in asylum history research and yet they are among the most useful documents when trying to put everything together – they typically outline changes that took place at the institution (ex. construction, start of new programs, changes in administration, etc) and provide a nice framework for getting the sense of how a place changed over time. Individual reports can be really interesting – but reading boxes worth of them one after another is a bit tedious.
But the day really worked out to be a “cool stuff” sandwich: ended the day by holding in my hands the first volume of The Opal, a patient produced newspaper from Utica that began publication in 1851! (Benjamin Reiss has written about The Opal in Theatres of Madness if you’re interested) The best part was opening the first volume and finding some original patient drawings/paintings glued in to the front!
Tomorrow morning I’m off on a field trip with my favourite Curator…..