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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Tracking the pre-asylum days in Manitoba

15 July 2010

Stop 2: Lower Fort Garry & Stony Mountain Penitentiary

It’s hard to think of it as a “research” day when you’re walking around the grounds of an early fur trading post listening to high school kids in costume tell you about the history of various buildings. But the animated tour of the Hudson Bay Company‘s post allowed us to go inside the buildings on the Fort grounds that were used at one point as both a prison and an asylum as well as the small building that was built for Dr. Young, the first medical superintendent of the Selkirk Asylum (pictured left).

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Columbia U @ the Asylum?

20 June 2010

Last day: visiting the original site

Last day at the archives went really well – though a bit sad: one of the boxes of patient files has been attacked by a bad case of mould to the point that the writing is being erased 😦

I headed off to Columbia University‘s beautiful campus afterwards – which just happens to sit on the site of the original location of Bloomingdale Asylum (before it moved to White Plains, NY). Three of the Asylum’s buildings were used by the university for a period of time:

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