Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Summer Research Trip:
The Weyburn Way
(by Lucas Richert, Postdoctoral Fellow)

Correspondent Brenan Smith is by no means the only historian from our department who is on the road this summer.  Earlier this month, history of medicine enthusiasts Daniel McFarlane (3rd year undergrad), Ryan Buhay (3rd year undergrad), and I embarked on a 3-day research trip to Weyburn. Our goals: to look at the Weyburn Mental Hospital during the Great Depression and to examine the hospital’s innovative art, music, and movement therapy programs in the 1950s-1960s. To this end, we scanned microfilm, shot video, conducted an interview, and even visited the cemetery and hospital ruins. Yet the journey to Weyburn produced so much more than just intriguing historical insights!

According to Ryan, “Weyburn was quite the time.  There was blood, a disgruntled CN worker, an old-school accordion jam session of Neil Young's 'Helpless', a paper-airplane contest, the fastest water slide in history (three seconds), Boston Pizza (repeatedly), and a continental breakfast that had a 'make your own waffle' contraption. All in all, it was an epic, mind-blowing experience.”

Daniel had this to say about the fieldwork in Weyburn: “I didn’t know what to expect going into this trip, but it turned out to be a really fun and eye-opening experience. It’s amazing how helpful people are when you tell them you want to learn about their local history. The history of the Weyburn asylum is incredibly unique, and really comes alive when you talk to people who were actually there.”

We still need to do some more primary research, but are on track to finishing our respective historical projects later this summer. That said, it seems unlikely that writing-up our research will be nearly as much fun as our Weyburn fieldwork.