Keys to our Past film series now ONLINE

I am THRILLED to announce that the Keys to our Past film series is now available for viewing online!

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Over the past few months, we have been working with the Research & Academics division at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care to create a series of short films that highlight topics in the history of mental health care in Canada. Funded by a SSHRC Canada 150 grant, the aim of the project was to explore the ways in which mental health care is integral to the very fabric that makes up our country  (For more information about this collaboration, I invite you to read Unlocking the History of Mental Health Care in Canada by Sara Laux).

IMG_20171004_191233We held four events this week to premiere the series before it went live on YouTube: two in New Toronto (Etobicoke) on the site of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital and two in Penetanguishene at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care (coincidentally, the two locations share a long history. As one example: the forensic division that has been located in Penetanguishene since 1933 was originally planned for New Toronto – but the facility was opened in Penetanguishene instead  due to a political shuffle).

For a review of the evening event at Humber, I direct you to the Preserved Stories blog by Jaan Pill.

 

Why these topics?

The funding provided by SSHRC allowed for the hiring of two students to lead the project: Rachel Gerow who is pursing her Master’s in Counseling Psychology at Yorkville University and Gary Bold who is pursuing his Bachelors in Psychology at York University. It was their questions and curiosity during an initial brainstorming meeting that directed the project from what was originally intended as a series of 2-3 two-minute videos to the resulting series of 6 roughly 10-minute videos!

The selected topics developed naturally out of the conversations Rachel and Gary had with the team. The result is a series of introductory videos about different treatment modalities during different time periods, a discussion about the creation of the asylum system, an overview of the changes to the Not Criminally Responsible legislation, and a conversation about the pervasiveness of stigma.

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Chalkboard cover images created for each film by Waypoint staff member, Nick West

What are the next steps in the project?

The topics represented in the series cannot represent all of Canada’s mental health history – they can’t even represent the full history of the topics they introduce! Our next steps therefore will be the creation of some additional resources to complement the films. We will be beginning with a collection of teaching guides to help answer questions raised by the content of the films and to direct viewers to additional sources. We are also developing a visual map of the artefacts that make up the film set!

As part of this process, we are seeking feedback from you – if you have questions, comments, or suggestions either about the existing content in the films or about related content, we want to hear from you. The supplementary resources will be enriched by the constructive feedback we receive from our viewers so please, don’t be shy! You can always contact the Interpretive Centre at info@lakeshoregrounds.ca or by calling 416-675-6622 ext. 3801.

The links to each video + the transcripts are available here

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From the Curator: the flock is starting to assemble

IMG_6365June has been an incredibly busy month – and yet also a wonderfully enjoyable one. We’ve been working on our next exhibit – Bird’s Eye View – that is set to launch on Wednesday, July 5 at 6pm (you’re all invited).

For the exhibit we’re looking at the rich bird life of Colonel Samuel Smith Park through the ways in which humans have been actively supporting different species. I find it hard to pick my favourite part: we’ve just installed a beautiful rainbow collage of the different species that are attracted to the dogwoods planted by the TRCA and community volunteers, we’re putting the final edits on a short documentary about the dedicated members of the Whimbrel Watch, today we constructed a new nesting box for the tree swallow section… and the list goes on (I can’t reveal everything pre-launch!)

IMG_6394.JPGOne of my favourite parts of working at the Interpretive Centre is the amount of hand-on construction and design that we do with each project we tackle. But the best part for me so far with Bird’s Eye View has been the new partnerships we’ve formed. Working with both Humber and community partners alike on this project through every stage – from conception to install – has made for a rich experience. We are located in community filled with creative minds who have been incredibly generous with their ideas, their time, and even their personal collections. So really, the part of the exhibit that I am truly excited to unveil on July 5th are the products of these relationships.

IMG_6398.JPGOnce Bird’s Eye View launches next week I will be sharing a few of the stories and more behind-the-scenes photos of how this exhibit has been truly collaborative in nature. In the meantime, be sure to mark your calendars for the launch event next week!

Launch of Bird’s Eye View

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Start: 6pm; remarks and artists’ reflections at 6:30pm. Light refreshments will be provided.

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The pain of getting what you wished for

Sometimes when things finally turn out the way you’ve been hoping, it causes a few problems. This past weekend the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre again participated in Doors Open Toronto, running our historic tunnel tours alongside a series of other incredible venues. Based on last year’s popularity, we decided to run tours on both Saturday and Sunday to accommodate more people. We re-wrote the tour script to keep it fresh, trained new volunteer guides, and developed a new game for kids.

When registration began slowly, I became anxious that the tunnels had lost their appeal. The tours eventually filled and I felt a sense of relief. Then last week we were included on Now Toronto’s Best Doors Open Events for 2017 and Urban Toronto’s Top Building Picks for this Weekend. I started fielding phone calls and emails and decided to extend the size of the tour groups to accommodate more people.

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Tour group inside the tunnels (photo credit: Sean Murdoch)

Before the first tour had even started on Saturday morning, the crowds were double the number that had registered. We extended the sizes of the tours as best we could and squeezed in an extra tour for the afternoon. But the numbers kept coming and we couldn’t keep up.

Saturday evening my team sat down to brainstorm how to handle Day 2 more smoothly. We checked every list over, discussed how much further we could stretch the size of the tours while still maintaining safety, and added three extra tours to the schedule for the walk-ins.

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Curatorial Assistant Ben Mitchell with tour group outside the loading dock doors in the tunnels (photo credit: Sean Murdoch)

By the end of the weekend we took 1,057 people through the historic tunnel system but unfortunately still had to turn people away. The number is small compared to many sites that participate in Doors Open Toronto, but an incredible feat for us: in all of 2016 we only took a total of 1,788 people through the tunnels so this two-day number is a record for us!

Our feet are sore, our throats are raw, but we’re thrilled – and humbled – by the response. But as Anne Jones wrote to the Editor of the Toronto Star yesterday: we left some people disappointed and we have a lot of work ahead of us to meet this new demand.

Some of the questions we’ll need to explore are:

  • Why didn’t people know about registration this year? What was different from last year?
  • How can we accommodate more people while still maintaining safety in the tunnels and a quality tour?
  • What’s the best way to leave room for walk-ins and day-of registrations?

On the grand scheme of things, the popularity is what I’ve been wishing for all year. Now that it’s here, the true challenge will be to hang on to it – keep things fresh, anticipate the hurdles better, and make sure everyone gets a chance to see what they came for.

*A personal request: If you know Anne Jones or your family was among those we couldn’t get onto a tour this weekend, send me an email and I’ll arrange a tour for you: jennifer.bazar@humber.ca As an historian of psychology by training, I never want to discourage an interest in our mental health history!

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Volunteer Guide, Jennifer Leonard, with group inside one of the tunnel’s branches (photo credit: Sean Murdoch)
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Curator Jennifer Bazar with group on the steps of the newly re-opened Administration Building of the former Mimico Asylum (photo credit: Sean Murdoch)

Notes from a Morning at the Whimbrel Watch

Thanks to an introduction from Terry Smith at Friends of Sam Smith, I had the opportunity this morning to attend the annual Whimbrel Watch out at Whimbrel Point in Colonel Samuel Smith Park. My primary aim was to work with the Humber Arboretum to interview Tim McCarthy and Wayne Renaud for the upcoming exhibit at the Interpretive Centre (oops! spoiler alert!) but as a first-time attendee of the Whimbrel Watch I thought it might be fun to share my notes from the experience:

4:00am – My alarm sounds and I fumble around in a daze. At this stage in my morning consciousness I’m not sure I could identify a “bird” let alone a whimbrel. Even the simplest morning tasks seem more complicated and I am silently grateful that I will be a cup of coffee deep before I meet up with the group.

4:30am – I head out to the car. The first thought that strikes me is that in the pitch black the street is alive with bird songs. Their volume is surprising against the silence from the houses. Before I have a chance to think much further about this early morning chorus, I become aware of a light rain and focus instead on wishing away the clouds.

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5:15am – I am wandering into Colonel Samuel Smith Park. Sunrise will not officially take place for another half an hour but there is more than enough light in which to navigate the paths in the park. I expected an eerie, lonely walk through the dark but am instead surrounded by lit paths, dog walkers, and birders armed with large scopes. I had no idea there was such activity at this hour!

5:30am – My first view of Whimbrel Point as I approach reveals that I am not the first to arrive. My nervous and shy “hellos” are greeted with warmth and welcome. Wayne Renaud – one of the men I have come to interview – is among the group. It becomes immediately obvious that he is just seeping with knowledge about birding. He’s also much more prepared than I am for the day’s event: layers of fleece, a toque and mitts, and a bag filled with snacks to take him through the day – only his sunburnt (or perhaps wind burnt?) cheeks show any sign that the weather may pose a challenge.

5:45am – A crowd is starting to gather. Tim McCarthy – the second man I have come to interview – is easy to spot when he arrives. Dressed in shorts despite the chilly breeze, he wears a collection of feathers in his cap and a stuffed whimbrel pokes out of his backpack. He announces to the group that he has received an early morning email from his contacts in Virginia and the news is not good: the storms are still raging in the U.S. and no whimbrels were spotted leaving overnight.

6:15am – Despite the bad weather to the south, the first flock appears overhead. The sighting stops the conversation dead and a wave of binoculars and camera lenses point in unison towards the birds. Counts are shared with the group – around 35 in this flock – as Tim records the time and weather details on his clipboard.

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Wayne and Tim spend the next few hours sharing stories of their own entries into birding, how they became involved in the Whimbrel Watch, and why the annual count is important for the conservation of the at-risk species. By the level of energy the two exude you would think this was Day 1 of the Whimbrel Watch – in fact, the two men have been out daily since the 19th.

9:30am – The excitement with the appearance of the first flock has waned and the numbers of birders out at Whimbrel Point has begun to shrink. A momentary thrill comes when another flock is sighted – but the mood quiets quickly as the group determines it is the same flock as earlier, still making the rounds. Today is shaping up to be a quiet one for the Watch.

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11:00am – I am starting to fade. The early morning wake-up has distorted my stomach’s idea of when lunch should arrive and the cold has now seeped in through my bones. The conversation over the morning has been fascinating – a collection of first-timers and experts alike have generously shared tips, suggestions, and a wealth of stories. A school group visiting the area approaches to learn about the whimbrels and I use their arrival as an excuse to seek out food and warmth.

11:30am – I arrive back at the Interpretive Centre with my cheeks burning red from the morning wind exposure. The whimbrels failed to turn out but their dedicated watchers have made the experience worth every moment. I feel committed to the full experience now and make plans to return this weekend for another attempt to spot the flocks.

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Want to experience the Whimbrel Watch for yourself? Join the group out at Whimbrel Point anytime between now and the end of the month (or stop by during this Saturday’s Spring Bird Festival!). Every knowledge level is welcomed but be warned – the passion of these birders is contagious and you may return home only to find yourself shopping for a pair of binoculars online…

Designing a new Storytelling Event: Can You See What I See?

FullSizeRenderWe have an interesting challenge here at the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre because we focus on four rather unique histories:

  • The history and culture of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe and Iroquoian peoples;
  • The history of the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital;
  • The history of education in the Lakeshore Grounds area including the Lakeshore Teachers’ College and Humber College; and
  • The history of ecological development in Colonel Samuel Smith Park

Each topic is rich and diverse all on its own – but the topics also knit together beautifully in the tapestry that is the history of the Lakeshore Grounds.

Most of our events and exhibits deal with one topic at a time – but this Saturday, March 25th, we’re taking on the challenge of presenting the woven tapestry as a whole. Our goal is to encourage everyone to look at the Lakeshore Grounds with fresh eyes, to see the different threads that have made it what it is today.

With the support of Myseum of Toronto, we’ve designed a new walking tour of the Lakeshore Grounds that begins at the Interpretive Centre, takes us through the Humber campus (yes, there’s a quick peak at the tunnels) and ends in Colonel Samuel Smith Park. And it’s not just a new tour route, Can You See What I See? is a storytelling event combined with a guided tour. That means that throughout the tour route you will encounter storytellers who will share short stories inspired by the indigenous, psychiatric, educational, and ecological histories of the Lakeshore Grounds.

Tours leave every hour with the first tour at 12pm and the last leaving at 4pm from the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre. The tours last roughly 1.25 hours and the route is fully mobility accessible (ASL interpretation available on the 12pm tour).

Come explore the Lakeshore Grounds with us and see its familiar sights from a new angle. Register for your preferred tour time by clicking here.

Looking for something a little EXTRA special? Myseum is coordinating a bus from Toronto that will include both the Can You See What I See? tours and the mAPPing the Territory exhibition at Humber’s North Space Gallery. The event is free but space is limited so be sure to reserve your seat by clicking here!

 

Behind the Scenes: Testing the Tunnel Install

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Testing different wires to hang the collection with in the tunnels

Next Saturday, February 25th we’re hosting a pop-up art show in the tunnels that run underneath Humber College’s Lakeshore campus (details below). But a non-traditional gallery location poses its own challenge: beyond the dirt, dust, and spiderwebs the tunnels are an historic site that date back to the late 19th century. Service tunnel or no – we really don’t want to be drilling into the walls. As luck would have it, those pipes that obstruct the view during our historic tours are coming in handy! There’s one set that runs the length of the walls at just the “right” height for what we needed.

So this morning before the Interpretive Centre opened for the day, I was in the tunnels with one of our Field Placement students, Nadine Finlay. We came armed with a collection of different wires to see which would fit behind the pipes, be strong enough to hold the frames, and – most importantly – which would look best.

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Less than an hour later we had weighed the options and made our choices. Next step: sorting out how to construct a standing frame to hold a 4′ x 5′ print….

Curious about what will be hanging off those wires? Secrets of an ever changing landscape, the tunnel exhibition will feature the mixed media collection that Gary Blundell and Victoria Ward originally created for our Instagram Takeover last fall. The collection includes animated GIFs, pastel drawings, acrylic paintings on wood, collage work, and photographs all inspired by the former campus of the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital and the grounds surrounding it, including Colonel Samuel Smith Park.

Join us on Saturday, February 25th between 11am – 5pm to see the show. Access will be through the newly renovated G Building at 17 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive. The location, including access to the tunnels, is mobility accessible.  

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Welcome to The Pigeon’s Passage!

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After years of planning and community consultations, the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre officially opened on January 26th, 2017 inside Humber College’s Student Welcome and Resource Centre. Our aim is to share the histories of education, ecology, indigenous issues, and mental health that are connected to the Lakeshore grounds region of south Etobicoke through exhibitions and cultural programming.

With all that’s going on here at the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre, we wanted a way to give you behind-the-scenes access. The Pigeon’s Passage is a new blog that will feature written, photographic, and video posts from our staff and volunteers. We will feature unique stories from our ongoing research, news of recent acquisitions to our collection, updates from our exhibitions, and announcements of upcoming events.

If you have ideas or suggestions about topics you would like to see featured in upcoming posts, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@lakeshoregrounds.ca