COQUITLAM, B.C., June 13, 2022 – A photo book, online catalogue and plans for a searchable database and artifact loans are opening up more public access to Coquitlam’s extensive Riverview Hospital collection.
The progress is part of the City’s work over several years to explore ways to protect, enhance and share thousands of items – including medical equipment, furnishings, monogrammed china and linens, personal belongings, photos and documents – from the former mental hospital that operated in Coquitlam from 1913 to 2012.
Conserving a Piece of Local History
Coquitlam became the custodian of more than 2,500 artifacts when Riverview Hospital closed in 2012, and also preserves hundreds of photos and documents in the City Archives.
Considered to be one of western Canada’s best collections of historical medical equipment, this valuable historical resource documents the evolution of mental health care in B.C. over a century as well as the hospital’s significant role in local history, as a major employer and health facility that at one time included dozens of buildings and housed thousands of patients.
Riverview operated on 1,000 acres of land within the ancestral territory of the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) people, renamed in 2021 to səmiq̓wəʔelə (pronounced Suh-mEE-kwuh EL-uh), which translates to Place of the Great Blue Heron in the Coast Salish hən̓q̓əmin̓əm (Halkomelem) language.
New Opportunities to Access the Collection
Coquitlam’s efforts to manage the collection in recent years have included a detailed assessment, inventory and cataloguing of all items and measures to ensure their safe long-term storage. The City has also taken steps to improve access to researchers and the public, including two new documents now available through www.coquitlam.ca/riverviewartifacts:
- Collecting Riverview: A visual history of photographs and objects booklet featuring archival photos of the facility, images and details of select artifacts, and text providing historical context. A limited number of printed copies will be distributed to local, regional and post-secondary libraries, Library and Archives Canada, Coquitlam Archives, and local heritage societies.
- Riverview Hospital Artifacts Collection – Catalogue of Artifacts is a finding aid that features every item in the collection. The catalogue includes a clickable table of contents and a brief introduction explaining its purpose. Key data fields for each artifact include catalogue number, description, provenance, dates and images.
The City Archives also provides public access to its collection of Riverview photos and documents and has produced two online exhibits about psychiatric nursing that provide further insight. Visit www.coquitlam.ca/archive or call 604-927-3900 for information, or visit the exhibit page at www.coquitlam.ca/onlineexhibit.
Grant Helps Finance Additional Access
Coquitlam recently received a $50,000 150 Time Immemorial grant from Heritage BC to help pay for the next phase of its collection management program.
A pilot project will be developed and implemented over the next two years to help address the demand for increased access to and information about the collection:
- A digital searchable database for the collection, providing user-friendly online access in a format that can be easily updated by staff as new information and stories about the pieces are received; and
- A collections loan program for researchers, medical schools and museums, overseen by dedicated staff and with robust policies and procedures to protect the artifacts.
While the loan program is not yet in place, museums or researchers interested in organizing a loan in the future are encouraged to fill out an online form.
Visit www.coquitlam.ca/riverviewartifacts for further information about the City’s work to preserve Riverview Hospital’s history.
Cultural Services Manager