I am now looking forward to the day that I could hire a research assistant – you get through so much more material when you’re not all on your own! Tim came and spent the day with me at the British Columbia Provincial Archives in Victoria.
He showed up unexpectedly after I had already started working (the archivist told me he was a “keeper”) so I was a bit unprepared as to how to direct him. I ended up gave him a list of microfilm I had wanted to go through and set him down infront of the machine for the day. Watching microfilm whirl by is not an easy job – I’m really appreciative!
While Tim took care of the mircofilmed records, I spent my day pouring through old patient case histories and registers which are all handwritten in giant bound books. All of the material related to the earliest period in the province’s institutional history.
British Columbia opened its first asylum in 1872. Called “Royal Hospital”, the institution was located in Victoria in an old quarantine house. In 1878, patients are moved to a newly constructed building in New Westminster. Originally named the “Provincial Asylum for the Insane”, the institution was renamed in 1897 the “Provincial Hospital for the Insane”. Overcrowding increased over the remainder of the century which led to the purchase of 1,000 acres of land in Coquitlam in 1904.