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Archival description
Provincial Mental Hospital, Essondale Terrace (B.C.)
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Operational records

This series consists of a variety of operational records created by various provincial mental health institutions from 1882 to 2005. These records were created by mental health institutions including: New Westminster Provincial Asylum (later Public Hospital for the Insane or Provincial Hospital for the Insane), Essondale (later Riverview), Home for the Aged Coquitlam (later Valleyview), Home for the Aged Terrace (later Skeenaview), Home for the Aged Vernon (later Dellview), Crease Clinic, Colony Farm, Colquitz, Woodlands School and other medical facilities.

Together these records provide details of the hospital's operations from their creation to closure. Internal records document the mandate and goals of the hospitals and how they changed as the government and society's attitudes regarding mental health care shifted over time. External documents such as articles written by Riverview staff demonstrate how the hospital chose to publicize information about its treatment practices and research.

There are many different kinds of records in this series intermingled together. Many of the reports and studies were held by the Riverview Hospital Medical Library. These may be identified by library call numbers or stamps. The records are grouped into subseries. Note that there may be some overlap and repetition between them due to the physical arrangement of the records. The following subseries are included:

  1. Publications. Includes copies of published articles in a variety of academic psychology and medical journals written by hospital staff from 1955-1979.

  2. Reports, programs, and procedures. This includes many different types of records which address topics such as: treatment methods; patient care; rehabilitation; patient services; the creation, evaluation and implementation of various programs; facility management; patient rights; general policies for medical staff; staff bylaws; staff training and orientation; child guidance (including original papers and speeches by Dr. Crease on multiple subjects); geriatric care; staffing; and the administrative review of the hospital’s organization. The bulk of the records include policies, procedures, manuals, unpublished studies, statistics, strategic plans, training materials, forms, pamphlets, and surveys and questionnaires from staff, patients and patient’s relatives.

  3. Conference and Committee Records. Includes records of the Provincial Mental Health Services Headquarters monthly or bimonthly conferences held by branch executives. Records include agendas, meeting minutes, budgets, copies of reports, statistics and other records discussed at the conference. Riverview Hospital medical advisory committee records include minutes and some reports or other records discussed in meetings. There are also some additional records included related to legislation and the Civil Defense Committee.

  4. Miscellaneous records. Includes records related to facilities, finances, correspondence and early hospital records. This includes some of the earliest records related to the creation, construction and operations of the hospitals and Colony Farm, such as financial records recording the purchase of supplies, maintenance of facilities or grounds and staff perquisites. There are correspondence or subject files on a variety of topics, including: Mental Health Services headquarters; Provincial Secretary Collection Office; the operation and construction of the Boy’s Industrial School; and Indian Affairs regarding Indigenous patients. Additional records include agreements with the Canadian Pacific Railway for use of hospital land; records marking hospital events and anniversaries; provincial Mental Health Services business management monthly reports; and other miscellaneous records.

  5. Riverview replacement records. Includes plans, reports and other records related to the changing makeup of mental health services on the Riverview lands. Beginning in the 1970s, the role of the hospitals began to be assessed and plans were developed to downsize, consolidate, replace or close various facilities. These records document that process. Contains various reports, planning documents and records of consultation with stakeholders.

  6. Annual reports. Covers a wide range of years. There are reports for the Asylum for the Insane, New Westminster from 1882-1885; BC Mental Health Hospitals Annual Reports (under several names) from 1901-1972, plus some later years; and federal government Annual Report of Mental Institutions for the Dominion Bureau of Statistics from 1932-1960.

Record books

This series consists of a variety of registers and record books created by various provincial mental health institutions from 1872 to 1998. These records were created by institutions including: Victoria Asylum, New Westminster Provincial Asylum (later Public Hospital for the Insane or Provincial Hospital for the Insane), Essondale (later Riverview), Home for the Aged (later Valleyview), Dellview, Skeenaview, Crease Clinic, Woodlands School and others. Not all volumes clearly identify which building or institution they are associated with.

The subjects of the volumes and their contents vary greatly. Many of them relate to other series in the BC Archives. The registers have been arranged in the following subject based subseries:

  1. Casebooks. This subseries only includes one volume providing a description of each of the first patients at the hospital, including how and why they were admitted, their history and treatment. Later casebooks can be found in GR-1754.

  2. Death and Cemetery records. This includes death registries, morgue records, cemetery record books showing the plots individuals were laid in and some medical certificates of death. Volumes may include information such as: name, date of death, date of burial, name of Minister, name of Undertaker, lot and block of cemetery plot, patient number, time in asylum, age, religion, cause of death, form of insanity, gender, and marital status.

  3. Admissions records. These volumes provide basic information about patients entered on their admission. Many of these volumes likely relate to the Home for the Aged (later known as Valleyview) based on patient demographics listed in the records. Recorded information may include patient number, name, residence, date of admission, relatives, religion, nationality, occupation, age, gender, marital status, level of education, physical state, date of transfer, date of death or discharge, form of admission, ward, and remarks.

  4. Number registers. These records relate to and may overlap with Admission registers. Upon admission each patient was assigned a mental health service number. This number system was used across all provincially operated mental health institutions. It appears that only a single register was used at any given time until about 1960, when individual hospitals began each using their own registers. Each hospital received a block of 100 numbers from the central registry. When they had assigned all numbers to their new patients they requested a new block of numbers. This means there is no single register in this group of records after 1960. Instead, blocks of numbers are spread among multiple registers. Number registers may record: patient number, name, address, date of admission, type of admission, and ward/building.

  5. Discharge registers. These record how a patient left the hospital’s custody and may specifically note death, various types of leave, escapes and transfers. These may record: name, patient number, gender, date of release or death, date of admission, term of residence, condition, ward, gender, diagnosis, who or where released to, and remarks.

  6. Treatments – operations. Record information about operations patients underwent. Includes: patient number, date, ward, name, age, diagnosis, operation, surgeon, assistant, nurses, anesthesiologist, anesthetic, specimen, and remarks.

  7. Treatments – x-rays. Records x-rays conducted on patients and staff. May include name, region, doctor, date, ward, and x-ray number.

  8. and 9. Treatments- miscellaneous. Each book records different treatments used in the hospital. This includes Electroencephalograms (EEGs), physiotherapy, behavior therapy, lobotomies. Subseries 8 relates to dentures.

  9. Treatments – doctor’s orders and consultations. List the date, patients name and orders or notes.

  10. Census and statistics. Note the date, number of patients in each building, staff on duty (including if away or late), patients died, admitted, discharged, on leave, from leave and transferred, as well as some notes on unusual occurrences.

  11. Miscellaneous. Includes a variety of other registers related to the operations of the hospitals, and appeal examinations for patient release.

Photographs and other visual material

This series consists of photographs, negatives, slides and architectural drawings created by various provincial mental health institutions from 1901 to 2002. These records regard the following institutions: New Westminster Provincial Asylum (later Public Hospital for the Insane or Provincial Hospital for the Insane), Essondale (later Riverview), Home for the Aged Coquitlam (later Valleyview), Home for the Aged Terrace (later Skeenaview), Home for the Aged Vernon (later Dellview), Crease Clinic, Colony Farm, Colquitz, Woodlands School, Tranquille and other medical facilities. Most records were created by the Essondale or Riverview Hospital Audio Visual Department.

Photos, negatives and slides cover a broad range of subjects which may overlap with or relate to other series of mental health photos at the archives. There are three broad categories of subjects: photos of institutions, pathological photos, and staff and patient photos. Images from these categories may all be intermingled together and specific subjects may be duplicated over multiple media types.

Photos of institutions include interior and exterior images of the buildings, facilities and grounds. This includes the construction and renovation of facilities. Most publicly operated mental health facilities in the Province are represented, as well as some additional medical facilities.

Pathological photos include images of adults and children with various mental and physical conditions or injuries, including full body shots and close ups. This includes close ups of human anatomy, dissections and brain samples. There are also images demonstrating various medical treatments patients underwent.

Staff and patient photos cover many aspects of daily patient and employee life. Many of the images document public events at the hospitals such as sports days, parties, dances, parades, graduations, opening ceremonies and other events. Additional subjects include patient leisure activities; recreational therapy; occupational therapy such as woodworking and sewing; patient care; hospital services such as laundry, food series, pharmacy and dentist; a variety of patient and volunteer programs; patients working at colony farm; staff demonstrating their work; passport style headshots of patients and staff; and group photos of staff from as early as the opening of the hospital.

Each media type is organized separately. They are represented by the following subseries:

  1. Photographs. Most photos date from the 1940s to 1970s, though altogether they range from the early 1900s to early 2000s. Almost all photographs are black and white, but some later ones are in colour. There are duplicates and copies of some images throughout the collection.

Each photograph will include varying amounts of information on its back. Some photos are unlabeled and include no information. Photos may be labelled with numbers, descriptions and/or dates. Many are stamped with Audio Visual Department, Mental Health Services, Essondale or Riverview. Some photos indicate the folder they were originally stored in and are labelled with an item number. These numbers likely relate to the organizational structure used by the Audio Visual Department and may correspond with the organization of other Mental Health Services photographs in the Archive’s holdings. It appears that when, or before, these photos were collected by the Riverview Historical Society they were removed from this organizational system and filed alphabetically by subject. The files are currently arranged alphabetically in two groups (one for each accession number).

  1. Large format photographs and albums. There are some large format prints and framed photos which were on display in the hospitals or Historical Society building. These photos are of patients and staff, including an early group photo of staff. These may be prints of older photos. There are also large scale prints of furniture sketches for the for the "Provincial Mental Hospital Mount Coquitlam", likely the Male Chronic Building.

Of the photo albums, three of them include similar photos of the interior and exterior of the Male Chronic Building, the first hospital built at Essondale, around its opening in 1913. The fourth album includes early portraits of patients labeled as having been diagnosed with Dementia Praecox, the original name given to Schizophrenia Kraepelin.

  1. Negatives. Most negatives are stored in their original envelopes, unless they required rehousing. Envelopes contain images related to a specific topic and may be labelled with a title, date and four digit number. Negative envelopes are arranged chronologically by this number up to number 3160. Many envelope numbers are missing. Negatives in container 972114-0009 were transferred separately but appear to have numbers which fit into this numbering system. Some envelopes are unlabeled or are missing some information. Envelopes may also include some associated photographic prints.

  2. Slides. Slides date from 1949 to the 1980s. They have been arranged into several groups based on the numbers written on individual slides. Slides are arranged chronologically by this number, or their date if they were not numbered. Note that there may be gaps in numbering. Slides in file boxes 3 and 4 have a variety of numbering systems, no numbers or only contain a date. They contain similar subject matter to A, B and P slides in the other file boxes. Numbers with A and B prefixes include images of institutions, staff and patients. Numbers with P prefixes document pathological images.

  3. Architectural plans. Plans date from 1920 to the 1980s. They cover Crease Clinic, Valleyview and other buildings on the Riverview/Essondale site at various points in time. There is also a master list of the Provincial Mental Hospital cemetery.

Riverview Hospital historical collection

  • Collection
  • 1872-2008

This series consists of a variety of records created by various provincial mental health institutions from 1872 to 2008. Records relate to the administration and operation of Riverview Hospital and related mental health facilities at the Essondale site in Coquitlam, as well as other facilities across the province. These mental health institutions include: Victoria Asylum, New Westminster Provincial Asylum (later Public Hospital for the Insane or Provincial Hospital for the Insane), Home for the Aged Coquitlam (later Valleyview), Home for the Aged Terrace (later Skeenaview), Home for the Aged Vernon (later Dellview), Crease Clinic, Colony Farm, Colquitz, Woodlands School, Tranquille and other medical facilities.

The names and administrative structure of these institutions changed over time. Mental health functions were originally part of the Provincial Secretary’s mandate; they were transferred to Mental Health Services when it was created in 1950.

These government records were collected by the Riverview Historical Society and include a wide variety of subject matter and media. This includes subjects such as: early development of the Essondale lands and Colony Farm; the construction and expansion of the facility; admissions, transfers, and discharges of patients; administration of patient care; administration of therapy programs; patient and staff recreation; staff and nurse training; operation of the audiovisual department; library services; research into new medical and therapeutic practices; research by staff regarding mental health practices at Riverview and further afield; community involvement; volunteer activity; policy development; the redevelopment of the Riverview lands; general administration; and, administration of other services at the site such as postal, food, laundry, banking, transportation and safety services.

The collection has been arranged into the following series based on record types:

GR-3924 - record books
GR-3925 - operational records
GR-3926 - newsletters
GR-3927 - photographs and other graphic material
GR-3928 - films and videos

Classified as 20000-20 in Operational Records Classification System (ORCS) schedule 144007.

British Columbia. Dept. of the Provincial Secretary