Stop 4: Brandon Mental Health Centre Museum & Tour
If you are ever passing through Brandon, Manitoba I highly recommend stopping to view the Museum run by the volunteer association of the Brandon Mental Health Centre. If you know you’re on your way through, I would also call in advance and request a tour.
We spent an absolutely fantastic morning in Brandon with three of the Museum’s volunteers: Doug Smith (president of the association), Bill Hillman, and Len (who’s surname I did not catch unfortunately). They had all worked at BMHC prior to its closing in the late 1990s and were not only familiar with the institution’s history but had a number of interesting personal stories to share. [I should also add that I am extremely grateful to Mrs. Smith who kindly directed us to the property over the phone after we got horribly lost!]
The property is being transformed into the new campus of the Assiniboine Community College (ACC) and the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts so the Museum is in transition at the moment (they’re moving out of the basement of the main building and in to a smaller building on the property). Although they’re in a transitionary state with their collection in the process of being boxed up, it was still an incredible day. They’ve arranged the material by themes so that every room you enter tells you the history of a different aspect of the institution. Since opening in 1971 the Museum has collected all sorts of materials: uniforms, tables, chairs, patient art, medical bottles and cabinets, apparatus, dentist chair, beauty salon equipment, fire prevention tools, books, musical instruments, etc, etc.
After viewing the rooms and digging through boxes and photo albums, we were taken on a tour of the interior of the main building. We even got to take the elevator that is still working! The rooms are empty now but in fairly good condition – they will be transformed but preserved by the ACC in the near future.
We were also taken for a drive around the campus and down to the first patient cemetery to see the cairn that lists all of the patient names on it. The cemetery was opened in 1898 and closed in 1925.
After the tour, Tim and I walked the grounds to take some more photos of the exteriors of the building. Then we drove down the road to the second cemetery which features a cairn like the first cemetery but also still has the individual markers of the individual plots – many of which still have the names on the stones.
It was an absolutely wonderful tour! I purchased the
history that was put together of the institution and features many early photographs and was given an aerial photograph of the property! I think I’ll have to come back once they’ve finished the relocation of the Museum!