mimico asylum

flickr

Cumberland House, Kivas Tully, Victorian Romanesque Revival, 1880 - Colonel Samuel Smith Park, Etobicoke, Toronto by edk7
Via Flickr:
Originally the residence of the superintendent of the nearby Lakeshore Asylum, also known as Mimico Branch Asylum, Mimico Insane Asylum, Mimico Hospital for the Insane, Ontario Hospital, Mimico, Ontario Hospital, New Toronto and Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. —- The house is currently a substance addiction treatment residential facility for women attending programs at the Jean Tweed Centre. —- Identified by Ontario Heritage Foundation and listed in Canadian Inventory of Historical Buildings —- Nikon Nikkor 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX DSC_9355 Anx2 1600h Q90

September 10th, 2016. 1:39 PM

Whew, a lot’s been going on. 

I now have three part time jobs that go together to make one real adult job. That’ll at least do me until April, when I have to start looking again.

I’ve a TAship, I’m working on the Tyndall Project, and just got a part time position as an assistant curator with the Humber Interpretive Centre. I’ll be helping to design and run an exhibit on the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. 

That one excites me the most. Part of our mandate is to use the history of the hospital to help destigmatize mental health issues. 

I’ve already thought of at least one angle, though the hospital itself doesn’t come off looking to good. For a good chunk of its history the Mimico Asylum (later called the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital) was a major proponent of what was called “Moral treatment,” which partly included making the patients work in the hospital without any pay. They built and maintained the buildings, tunnels, made the food, kept gardens and animals.  

In 1897 then Superintendent Beemer was enthused to proposed to finish “the whole structure [of the new Assembly Hall] without hiring any help.” One of the few reports I’ve found of people criticizing this emphasis on free labour as “therapy” was the Toronto Asylum Superintendent Daniel Clark. In 1885 he was already saying that too much therapeutic stock was being put in the free labour of patients. One Superintendent named Russel in Hamilton even suggested changing the name of the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane" to “The School of Mental and Manual Training.”

But the thing is, I think this gets to the heart of a lot of stigmas around mental health issues. That we don’t, or can’t contribute to society, or that we’re a burden on it. The “moral treatment” proponents felt justified in using patients as free labour because they felt they were owed that labour for the privilege of keeping them alive, even when it was largely the patients themselves who were keeping themselves alive with their own labour. 

I also hope to use the exhibit to talk about the importance of a universal basic income, but I’m just the assistant curator, not the curator, and we’ll see how my proposal goes.