Professor Geoffrey Reaume of York University’s piece on the successful wall tours he has been running at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) appears on ActiveHistory.ca today. Professor Reaume’s piece previously appeared in the Active History theme issue of Left History and we are very happy to cross-publish it here.
The purpose of the wall tours described in this article is to remember the men and women asylum patients who built, lived, worked and died behind the last remaining structures that still exist on the grounds of the former Asylum for the Insane, Toronto. The tours first started with a conversation. In spring 2000, Heinz Klein, one of the organizers for the Psychiatric Survivor Pride Week events, and an activist whom I have known since 1993, asked me to give a talk about the history of people who lived in the Toronto Asylum for the upcoming annual event organized to celebrate the contributions of psychiatric survivors/consumers in our community.1 I was skeptical and said a lot of people had recently seen a play based on my research which did a better job than I could of speaking about patients’ lives. Heinz then suggested I could give a talk outside by the 19th century patient built wall at the present day Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), not far from where the play had been performed in April, 2000. As we continued to talk the idea of a wall tour came up, though I can’t remember who suggested it first. Instead of a stationary talk by the wall, the idea was to give talks all along the wall about patients’ lives where they lived. The wall would be the central site of multiple talks woven together by the common theme of describing a history of patients’ life and labour on this site. And so began the wall tours with the first one held on July 14, 2000, Mad Pride Day as it is now called. To my amazement and delight, about fifty people showed up for the first wall tour, a harbinger of things to come in the following years. [READ MORE]
The table of contents for the full issue are below the cut. If you are interested in receiving a copy of the Active History theme issue, we are distributing FREE copies to our readership (quantities are limited, so we will be generally operating on a first-come-first-serve basis). Please e-mail email@example.com with your name, mailing address, and a brief two sentence rationale for why you’d like to receive the issue. We would then be happy to send it to you free of charge. For information on Left History or to express interest in subscribing, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Continue reading →
Since 2007 people have come together once a year to celebrate and remember the life of Jane Jacobs by leading or participating in walking tours of their local communities. As Jacobs argued, walkability is essential for urban communities. These tours seem to be a truly fitting monument to Jacob’s legacy. The walks began in Toronto, but have since spread well beyond Jane’s adopted city, with hundreds of walks scheduled for the first weekend in May in cities around the world. Many topics are covered during these walks, but a lot of them focus either directly or indirectly on local history. The Jane’s Walks provide an opportunity for all our followers to experience firsthand a grassroots history project similar to those discussed in two recent ActiveHistory.ca posts on walking tours and street history. Continue reading →
Here is an announcement for ‘Words on the Wall,’ which is a fundraiser for plaques that will commemorate this 19th century patient-build wall in Toronto, Ontario.
Help us put Words on the Wall
The Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto (PSAT) is giving out bricks to serve as the basis for a work of art. Artists and groups are welcome to use the medium of their choice. Works will be displayed and sold as part of a silent auction to help raise funds for historic plaques to commemorate the history of the patient-built wall at the Queen Street Site of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Words on the Wall will be held on April 21, 2010 at the Gladstone Hotel in conjunction with This is Not a Reading Series. There will be a wall tour led by historian Geoffrey Reaume, followed by a relaunch of the 2 nd edition of his book, Remembrance of Patients Past (University of Toronto Press). We will end the evening with a silent auction of the bricks donated by artists.
Yesterday, October 1st, the Graduate History Students Association at York University hosted their first Historians’ Craft of the year, which focused on the question of what Active History is.
The title of the forum was “Hands On History: Keeping History Relevant”. It was a round table discussion with guests Geoffrey Reaume, Victoria Freeman, Craig Heron and the members of Active History (activehistory.ca.) Some of the questions discussed were: What is the role of activists in the historical discipline? How does this affect questions of objectivity and presentism? What new methodologies are being developed in active history? What projects are being developed in the field? And please feel free to bring your own questions, concerns, and ideas about your project. As usual there will be a reception at the Underground following the discussion where some snacks will be provided.
The file is available here for download, and is ideal for those of you with long commutes, fun-filled workouts, or simply an enduring interest in Active History.
It is split into two parts due to size restrictions.
Workman Arts Presents: “in SANITY”, The Story Behind the Wall @ Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Saturday, October 3rd 2009 from 7pm – 7am @ the Workman Theatre, CAMH, 1001 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON M6J 1H4
The Story Behind the Wall is a mixed-media and cross-disciplinary art-making project taken on by artists of the Workman Arts Project of Ontario. Six artists chose six former patients from the Toronto Hospital for the Insane as depicted in the book Remembrance of Patients Past – Patient life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940 by Geoffrey Reaume. Their goal was to create figurative sculptures to creatively and expressively tell the stories of these individual patients.
Geoffrey Reaume’s careful research though the Archives of Ontario was an attempt to understand the patients as people first rather than a diagnostic label. Working from Geoffrey’s place of respect, the six artists from the Workman Arts Project chose six patients from his book and further investigated these individuals by relating to them as people, artists, and, as people who have experience with mental health as well as the confines of the Psychiatric System and the prejudice of society.