Rescue mission for Riverview Hospital photos

This photo of Riverview Hospital
This photo of Riverview Hospital's Centre Lawn building was taken in 1949 and is part of a collection that will soon become the property of B.C.'s provincial archives.

The Riverview Historical Society has embarked on a mission to scan hundreds of historical Riverview photos before they have to be turned over to provincial authorities in Victoria.

The group, headed by former Riverview nurse Anna Tremere, has until June 28 to complete the rescue mission.

Craig Hodge, a Coquitlam counsellor and retired Tri-City News photographer who is helping Tremere with the task, said the photos cover several decades of the hospital's operation and include training photos, patient activities, and historical photos of buildings on the site dating back to the early years of the nearly 100-year-old hospital.

The photos are a valuable resource and without a comprehensive effort to identify and scan them, they could be lost, Hodge told the Riverview Lands Advisory Committee Tuesday.

"I have visions of that scene in Raiders of the Lost Arc where the stuff is wheeled in a box down a long corridor and placed on a shelf never to be seen again," Hodge said.

The hand-over of photos to the provincial archives only came to light recently, according to Tremere, who said she was told 15 years ago that the photos she collected over the years could stay in Coquitlam. However, under the Documents Disposal Act, the photos along with documents are the property of the provincial government and must be returned to undergo a rigorous classification process.

It's possible the photos could eventually be returned, but the process of determining their historic or public value could take months, even years, she said, noting that she obtained a 30-day delay after explaining that a researcher in geriatric health studies was coming from York, England to view the photos and some of the documents.

The move was prompted by the closure of Riverview Hospital this summer and the vacating of properties by the Provincial Health Services Authority, including rooms where Tremere stored artifacts and photos for public research and viewing.

Coquitlam is taking ownership of the artifacts but the photos, and several boxes of documents remain the property of the PHSA. Hodge said he hopes the photos can be scanned in time so they can be part of a city archive in the future.

Meanwhile the city committee is also concerned about poor turnout to workshops for a Heritage Conservation  Plan and is drafting a letter to the provincial government on ways to get the word out as well as its concerns about the upkeep and future plans for the Riverview lands. Two drop-in workshops are set for next week: Monday June 11 at the Port Coquitlam Recreation Complex and Tuesday, June 12 at the Centennial Pavilion, 620 Poirier St., Coquitlam. Times for both are 4-8 p.m. An online questionnaire is available at


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