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Expansion + Material Culture Summer Institute

I’ve decided to post about more than just my asylum research (although asylum-related research will remain the focus). To make the transition, I’ve included a photo (top left) that I recently took while at the Summer Institute in Material Culture Research held by the Canada Science & Technology Museum in Ottawa, Ontario. The machine is from the Weyburn Mental Hospital in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. It was was donated shortly after the hospital was torn down in the spring of 2009. The collection includes several medical machines as well as some green tiles from the walls of the institution.  

The second annual Summer Institute in Material Culture Research: “Reading Artifacts” was a week-long institute open to graduate students, faculty members, museum curators, and anyone researching history who is interested in using artifacts in their research. The schedule included presentations by curators at both the Science & Technology Museum as well as the Museum of Civilization, tours of exhibits at the museum, tours of the storage buildings, tours of the library and archives at the S&TM, a field trip to the Aviation Museum, and lots of time to do hands-on research projects.

The major part of the hands-on experience involved group research on an artifact. My group selected to work on a child’s polio corset from the 1960s (pictured bottom right; more photos here). We were originally given only the corset and had to work out what it was based on its design, the material used, etc. As the week progressed we gained access to the original accessions file, other items that were donated with the corset, as well as similar items in the medical collection. At the end of the week each group presented their object to the group and highlighted some aspect of it (see the group’s Flickr page for some of the other items).

It was a really interesting week – I highly recommend attending next year’s Summer Institute!


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