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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The sorry tale of the first and LAST time I read a sad book in public.

The following is my response to reading:

The Last of the Curlews (1955)

by Fred Bodsworth

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The Eskimo Curlew, painted by John James Audubon. Frequently used as a cover image for the novel.

Charged with creating a reference inventory for the Interpretive Centre’s books one day, the cover of Fred Bodsworth’s book repeatedly caught my eye. I saved the book until last so I could read a few pages, just to satisfy my curiosity. My next hour and a half were quickly consumed (don’t tell Jennifer!) with reading The Last of the Curlews cover to cover. The concept of mass extinction is not uncommon for our area of Ontario, both the Eskimo Curlew and Passenger Pigeon had once been described as the most numerous birds in the world, with populations reported in the high millions.

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Eskimo Curlew on display at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Bodsworth’s book takes a different angle on the topic by providing a fictional account of the last of the Eskimo Curlews and the search – in vain – for more of it’s species. The overall theme of the book predicts the extinction of the Curlew, a full decade before the final confirmed sighting in Canada in 1963. Akin to the Passenger Pigeon, the Eskimo Curlew was wantonly slaughtered for food across the Americas, with as many as two million killed per year in the 1940s-50s.

An interesting mix of omniscient narration, and a peek into the instinct-driven mind of our Curlew, kept me reading intently. The solo migration between the Arctic and Patagonia highlights the Curlew’s strength, speed, endurance, and remarkable drive for survival. As can be surmised from the title, the narrator and reader alike can infer the ultimate outcome for our Hero.

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A lone Eskimo Curlew, as painted by Archibald Thorburn 

This book was an enthralling awakening to the reality of our influence on nature and I found myself much more sympathetic to the smaller cousin of the Curlew, the Whimbrel – featured in the Interpretive Centre’s current exhibit, Bird’s Eye View – as well as a deeper understanding and respect for birds across the world. Moving forward, this book raises issues relevant in contemporary conservation efforts. While the Eskimo Curlew is widely believed to be extinct (more on this debate in a future post), there are still species we can support through collaborative efforts, mindfulness, and lifestyle changes. In conclusion, I leave you with a quote from the late Bodsworth:

“…Man is an inescapable part of all nature, that its welfare is his welfare, that to survive, he cannot continue acting and regarding himself as a spectator looking on from somewhere outside.”

        -Fred Bodsworth (2003) (RYELL, 2012)

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Fred Bodsworth (photo via Terry Smith)

Find yourself in need of a book to read, or interested in The Last of the Curlews? Drop by the Interpretive Centre during our opening hours, and cozy up in our space!

*Blankets and reading socks not included*

Update on the CHIME Digital Exhibit

FB_IMG_1491754257064This is the second in a series of guest posts submitted by the members of the CHIME Digital Exhibits group that document the group’s development of a digital exhibit featuring the different histories of the Lakeshore Grounds. (The first post in the series can be read here).

Research is nearly wrapped up and the next few weeks will be a storm of proofreading and getting the final product ready for launch!

In case you missed the project’s introductory entry, CHIME is an upcoming digital exhibition highlighting the colourful history of the Etobicoke Lakeshore community, with special attention on the institutions that existed prior to the founding of Humber College. It will be hosted on the Interpretive Centre’s website and completely free for all community members to access!

The Lakeshore community in Etobicoke is quite diverse, with students from high school and college as well as the local business owners and families that have settled in the area. However, the heritage of the land is a common and uniting factor for everyone. By promoting awareness of what happened on the grounds and why it is significant, CHIME aims to strengthen bonds within the community and create more solid common ground for everyone to stand on. With rising rates of mental illness among youth, knowledge about the history of the psychiatric hospital can be empowering for modern students, and hopefully reduce stigma around what is becoming an increasingly common struggle. Another such example of how the exhibit can benefit the community it serves is the ecology of the area – with climate change and the fight to protect the environment, so too must we be mindful of the way of life Canadians enjoy. Bird-watching in Colonel Samuel Smith Park wouldn’t be possible if we damaged their habitats to the point of driving away the animals that call the space home. These are just some of the ways that the exhibition is shaping up to be an intriguing and helpful tool for Humber students and beyond.

As the history of the area is a truly unique experience, so is this exhibit. Some of the documents and visual resources that will be included in the exhibition include a look at the various architectural trends around campus, such as the old psychiatric hospital cottages and the modernist structure of what is now the A building. Thanks to help from The Archives of Ontario as well as Humber’s Facility Management Department, the CHIME exhibit will have an exclusive look at architectural drawings from the 1950s and 60s, as well as some historic photos from the Teachers’ College that helped shape the school today. Thanks to the amazing support team working behind the scenes, we’ll also be treated to 3D renderings that recreate some of the original buildings!

CHIME will be launching on April 22nd at lakeshoregrounds.ca/chime (link to come).

The Assembly Hall

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The auditorium on the second floor of The Assembly Hall. Photo from The Assembly Hall’s website, re-posted here with permission.

For this post, I wanted to write about the history of The Assembly Hall and its relationship with the Lakeshore Grounds. Like most students who attend the Lakeshore campus of Humber College, it is a building that I walk by frequently while on campus. I was interested in learning more about how the history of the building when the property was a psychiatric hospital.

Located at the corner of Colonel Samuel Smith Drive and Lake Shore Boulevard West, The Assembly Hall has become an entertainment and cultural hub both for the local community and for the Humber College community. Though the building has been renovated in recent years and now features a contemporary glass addition on its exterior, it was originally constructed to serve the Mimico Asylum. Much like today, The Assembly Hall was used for entertainment purposes for Hospital patients and staff. It was also used for religious worship on a weekly basis.

As part of what was known as “moral treatment” in the nineteenth century, the patients assisted in constructing The Assembly Hall – as well as the various other buildings in the surrounding area. Moral treatment emphasized the influence of the environment and what one did in that environment as a means of healing mental health symptoms. In particular, gendered labour assignments and assigned recreation events were emphasized. Female patients were tasked with domestic chores, while men were outdoors doing physical labour as part of their “moral treatment”.

When it was completed in 1898, The Assembly Hall was used for concerts, dances, and religious services. The main floor acted as office space and storerooms and the second floor, where the auditorium is located, was The Assembly Hall’s entertainment center. Today, these areas essentially serve the same purposes.

Today, The Assembly Hall is owned and run by the City of Toronto. It regularly holds art exhibits, plays, and other community and cultural programming. You can visit Assembly Hall’s website or Facebook page for more information about them and their events.

Announcing CHIME Digital Exhibits

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CHIME Digital Exhibits logo

This is a special guest post submitted by the members of the CHIME Digital Exhibits group. It is the first in a series of posts that will document the group’s development of a digital exhibit that will feature the different histories of the Lakeshore Grounds.

As Japanese game designer Hideo Kojima once said, “Building the future and keeping the past alive are one and the same thing.” As a heritage group, it’s a sentiment that we can’t help but latch onto, especially during a time when Humber College is rapidly expanding its scope and undergoing construction of numerous new facilities.

One of the most notable factors in making Humber’s Lakeshore campus a popular option for students is due to the character of the area. Rather than sitting in massive lecture halls and trudging through plain, industrial buildings to get to class or study, those who work and study on the Lakeshore Grounds get the unique opportunity to walk through history.

However, not everyone who studies here appreciates what they are a part of, and a new student project is aiming to fix that.

Launching at the end of the current semester is CHIME Digital Exhibits, an undertaking intended to promote awareness of the history and heritage of the Lakeshore Grounds and Colonel Samuel Smith Park.

Collaborating with the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre, CHIME will be providing an interactive, five-part virtual exhibition on the heritage and ecology of the Etobicoke-Lakeshore area. The exhibit includes five pillars, which compose Humber’s history as well as the subjects from which the project name is formed: (teachers’) College, (psychiatric) Hospital, Indigenous community, Movie sets, and Ecological zone. Together, the exhibits will enhance community learning and facilitate involvement and contributions to the ongoing legacy of the area.

Being run by six students in Humber’s Arts Administration and Cultural Management Program, the CHIME Digital Exhibits group wants to encourage Humber students to learn about and appreciate the narrative of the neighborhood before Humber College, and engage the surrounding community with their cultural, historical, and ecological legacies.

The exhibit will be completely free to access and available for the general public to view, featuring exclusive documents, images, video, audio from all five pillars of the area’s history. Additionally, social media outlets are currently running in conjunction with the exhibit, encouraging students and community members to share their own stories about Etobicoke and Humber using the official #CHIMEin hashtag.

The webpage featuring the exhibit will launch on April 22, 2017 at lakeshoregrounds.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CHIMEdigitalexh/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CHIMEdigitalexh

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chimedigitalexh/

For more information, or to contribute, contact: chimeinterpretive@gmail.com

Black History Month

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Photo linked from JeanAugustine.ca

The month of February is Black History Month in Canada. This is a  month that recognizes the important contributions and history of the Black community in our country. I approached our Curator earlier this month and said I wanted to draw attention to several Black Canadians who I think everyone should know. One blog post cannot cover the long list of names I have read about recently, but I wanted to acknowledge a few that stood out to me who have made significant historical and social contributions to Canada.

The first person I want to highlight is Jean Augustine. I came across Augustine’s name when I first started looking into the history of Black History Month in Canada.

Jean Augustine is a former Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. It is because of her efforts that we now celebrate Black History Month in Canada. In 1993, she became the first Black female Member of Parliament where she advocated for cultural diversity, women’s issues, and immigration rights. In 1995, it was Augustine who brought forward a motion to officially recognize Black History Month in Canada to talk about the important contributions made by Black Canadians throughout our history. In December 1995, her motion passed with a unanimous vote.

A second Canadian that I want to highlight is Viola Desmond, a prominent citizen of Nova Scotia. She was a beautician and entrepreneur in Halifax who brought national attention to human rights with her famous court case:

One night in November 1946 Desmond decided to go to the Roseland Theatre to see a film while her car was being repaired. She sat in the “Whites Only Area” of the theatre. After refusing to go to the “Coloured Only” section, Desmond was arrested and jailed overnight. She was eventually charged with tax fraud, and ordered to pay a $26 fine. Despite hiring a lawyer to help overturn the decision, the charges remained until 2010 when the Nova Scotia government made a formal apology to Desmond’s family.

Viola Desmond will be the first woman to appear on Canadian currency. Her image will be on the $10 bill beginning in 2018. I think it is important to speak about Viola Desmond because she is a prime example of someone who saw an injustice and acted against it.

A third story that caught my attention is the story of the No. 2 Construction Battalion:

When the War broke out, it was extremely difficult for Black men to join the Canadian military. However, in July 1916, the very first Canadian Black Battalion was formed in Nova Scotia with a total of 600 men accepted for service. The No. 2 Construction Battalion was not given a combat role in the War – in March 1918 they were deployed to Liverpool, England, and then France, to work with the Canadian Forestry Corps. Eventually, some of the men joined regular units to fight on the front lines of the War. Many of these men were awarded medals for their war efforts.

It is important to acknowledge the war efforts of Black soldiers. When war broke out, there was much discrimination against people of colour by Canada’s government and military. These men were able to break through racial barriers, which shows that when you fight for something you believe in, changes can come.

This is only a small list of important Black Canadians in our history. I encourage our readers to do your own research and share what you learn with your family and peers. Some great places to start include:

Black History Canada from Historica Canada

Ontario Black History Society

Strictly Steam

Assistant Curator Ben Mitchell talks about his research on a radiator from the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital that was pulled out of G Building during the recent renovations.

The radiator can be seen on the third floor of the Student Welcome and Resource Centre at Humber College’s Lakeshore Campus, just across from the Office of the Principal.

With special thanks to the folks at HeatingHelp.com, and Peter Owens from Barnes & Jones Inc.