Museum in MS’s house

8 August 2010

Stop 13: Julaine Farrow Museum

The Julaine Farrow Museum holds artifacts related to the Winnebago State Hospital. It’s located in the Medical Superintendent’s house on the property of the hospital (now the Winnebago Mental Health Institute) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The Museum is only open for a few hours on Thursdays. It was packed! I actually found it really interesting to see who was viewing the collection: two separate groups of medical students, a past employee and her family, and a family from the community.

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Last *official* appointment

8 August 2010

Stop 11: North Dakota State Hospital Museum

Last appointment was at the North Dakota State Hospital Museum in Jamestown, North Dakota. The hospital’s history dates to 1885 – before North Dakota was even a state!

I had a great visit to the Museum. I got to meet Dr. Rosalie Etherington who organized and runs the museum (in addition to her position as Clinical Director of the hospital). It was not only a very interesting collection that included some items I haven’t seen elsewhere yet (ex. original morgue table) but I also got to hear about the history of the museum’s development and where it’s going next. Spoiler alert: keep an eye on their website for historical documents and photos that will be scanned and posted in the near future!

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Last Canadian Stop

30 July 2010

Stop 10: City of North Battleford Archives & Sask Hospital Museum

Started this morning with an appointment at the City of North Battleford Archives (luckily they were unaffected by the recent flash flooding here). They have a collection that was donated by a woman who grew up on the Saskatchewan Hospital grounds and attended the school that was established for the children of employees. She had also gone on to work at the Hospital as a nurse. The collection includes both her reminiscences of her childhood on the Hospital grounds as well as an extensive photo album that she put together – it highlights both events and daily life at the Hospital as well as changes in the growing cities of Battleford and North Battleford.

I had found a reference to a museum at the still-operating Saskatchewan Hospital earlier this summer but had not been able to get ahold of anyone prior to arriving in North Battleford yesterday. I knew that they had a history book on sale so I decided to take a chance and just show up.

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Museum & Tour of Forensic Hospital

27 July 2010

Stop 7: Riverview Hospital Museum, Grounds & Forensic Psychiatric Hospital

[The photo really doesn’t do the property justice – it was taken out my car window as I drove past the back of one of the buildings – I was advised that security has begun confiscating people’s cameras so I didn’t want to risk it – too many stops to go on this trip so I can’t risk losing my camera now!]

Continuing from my last post, BC’s asylum/mental hospital system had migrated to Coquitlam by the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1904 the province purchased 1,000 acres of land. The institution (known originally as The Hospital for the Mind, later Essondale, and currently Riverview Hospital) began receiving patients in 1913.

With 244 acres remaining from the original 1,000 Riverview is slated to close in June of 2012. What will happen to the buildings still on the property seems to be unknown for the moment – and this includes the fate of the Riverview Hospital Museum.

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More than just a pile of bricks remains

23 July 2010

Stop 5: Weyburn Mental Hospital

Yes, Saskatchewan’s famous hospital was torn down last spring despite efforts to save the building and internet petitions (click here for a summary of its last years). And yes, the site currently consists of a large pile of bricks surrounded by chain-link fence [pictured right]. However, a good collection of artifacts from the Weyburn Mental Hospital can be found at the local museum: the Soo Line Historical Museum.

The Weyburn Mental Hospital opened in 1921 and over the years employed a variety of treatments: hydrotherapy, lobotomy, electroshock treatments,various forms of occupational therapy, etc. But what many Canadians tend to associate with the institution are the experimental hallucinogenic drug treatments that were carried out in the 1950s. Led by Dr. Humphry Osmond, who has been credited for coining the term “psychedelic”, the experiments involved drugs such as LSD, mescaline, and peyote and involved staff as well as patients.

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Museum, building tour, and grounds tour!

15 July 2010

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!]

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First stop: Selkirk, MB

12 July 2010

Stop 1: Selkirk Mental Health Centre Heritage Room & Archives

After a beautiful three day drive through Northern Ontario we arrived in Manitoba yesterday afternoon. Staying at Birds Hill Provincial Park located just outside of Winnipeg (random note: the deer have no fear of humans and are not shy about walking right onto your campsite and standing beside you – very unnerving when you turn around and suddenly a big deer is standing there staring at you!)

This morning was my first day of research on a month-long trip that takes me across Canada. I’ve started in Selkirk, Manitoba where what was the Manitoba Asylum (today: Selkirk Mental Health Centre) opened in 1886.

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Last day…for now!

3 July 2010

Last day: More artifacts & annual reports

It was a great Friday: spent the entire morning digging through boxes in the NY State Museum‘s storage room for artifacts from the Utica and Willard State Hospitals. Got to see some really interesting material! Among the coolest was Amariah Brigham‘s phrenological hat (for a film about how it works see this link – watch from 43 seconds in).

Finished off with the Utica annual reports in the afternoon + made it part way through the volumes of The Opal. Definitely am going to need to come back – I barely dented the materials held by both the Archives and the Museum!!

Heading back to NYC tomorrow AM and then it’s back on the overnight bus to Toronto. Next trip: Tim and I are driving across Canada to check out asylum and mental hospital museum collections! We leave next weekend.


Field trip!

2 July 2010

Day 4: I think I know the location of ark of the covenant

Today I got to go on a field trip to the NY State Museum‘s off-site storage facility!! I got driven out with some of the Museum’s employees in a passenger van to Rotterdam, about 30 minutes away, where the Museum stores the majority of its artifacts in this old ammunitions bunker. It was quite cool: a giant warehouse filled with items as far as the eye could see. Anything you could think of was in this place: furniture, cars from every era, boats, circus gear, clothing – and the Willard suitcase collection of course (pictured)!

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NY State Archives

29 June 2010

Day 1: NY State Archives

Headed straight from Cheiron to Albany, NY via NYC (braved the Megabus again – ugh!) for 5 days at the NY State Archives and NY State Museum. Among other things, they hold the collections of the Willard and Utica State Hospitals.

Started today at the Archives: spent the day digging through the Willard photograph collection for materials related to th 19th century. So far, so good! Tons of photos and albums that show not only the buildings (exteriors and interiors) but also both patients and staff in action! Also got to see a large collection of glass slides from the nursing school.

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