UPDATED: Riverview heritage collection on the move

Riverview Hospital historical items will be moved to storage and form part of the City of Coquitlam
Riverview Hospital historical items will be moved to storage and form part of the City of Coquitlam's historical collection.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

A safe place has been found for hundreds of artifacts collected over Riverview's near century of existence after the city of Coquitlam took over the collection and placed it in climate-controlled, secure storage this week.

On Tuesday, movers transported the items to an undisclosed location after the city reached an agreement with the Riverview Hospital Historical Society and the Provincial Health Services Authority to assume ownership of the items.

Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge said the agreement will ensure the items, many of them valuable as one-of-a-kind antiques and medical history collectibles, will be protected. Over the next few years, the city will figure out how to display the items so the public learns more about the city's past.

"It tells an important story of who we were and where we came from," said Hodge, a former president of the Coquitlam Heritage Society.

The hour agreement comes as Riverview Hospital is shutting down this summer because mental health programs have been relocated to B.C. communities. The items collected by the historical society and curated by Anna Tremere were almost without a home until the city stepped in and took over the collection.

In a statement, Tremere expressed relief that the collection will now be looked after. “The preservation of this history acknowledges a commitment to ensure the legacy of those individuals whose lives have been affected by a psychiatric disorder,” she said.

The executive director of Mackin House Museum also welcomed the move but said it's only a temporary solution. Jill Cook said the city still needs a free-standing museum, which would be "a place to show all the artifacts from the community."

Hodge credited Lori McKay, Coquitlam's general manager for parks, recreation and culture services, for understanding the importance of the collection. He said the location of the items isn't being disclosed because of their value but storage will be climate-controlled and secured for their protection.

Still, it could be some time before they are placed in a permanent museum and Hodge said more items of historical importance need to be collected first to ensure a new museum, if one gets built, has something to display.

"You can build a building in a year or two but the collecting starts years and years ahead of time," he said, adding that the Riverview collection — hundreds of pieces of furniture, equipment, uniforms, documents and photographs — is a good base from which to build.

Hodge, who also chairs the Riverview Lands Advisory Committee, said the former mental health hospital plays an important part in the city's history because it was a major employer and had its own school, fire department and community. At its height, Riverview employed 2,000 people and had 4,500 residents.

While it could be some time before the collection is on permanent display, Hodge said the city would likely find a way to showcase some of the pieces for Riverview's 100th anniversary next year and the city's 125th anniversary in 2016.

• For more information about the collection of Riverview Hospital artifacts, email or call 604-516-6151.



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