In general, people think of hospitals as the products of medical requirements and health practices – in other words, that they exist to serve a specific function. However, Sweeney’s research shows that during the development period of these hospitals, the general public (community groups, patient advocates, municipal politicians, etc.) were instrumental in financing, running, and pushing for them to be built or made available to the public.
“A lot of hospital histories read like institutional biographies, I wanted to look at them as part of a city’s communal fabric,” says Sweeney.
Sweeney will share some of the key insights from his research on general hospitals in Canada:
- Hospitals are contested spaces and all constituents including patients, the general public, city councils, and nurses must be taken into account when studying these institutions – not just doctors and hospital administrators;
- Hospitals in Western Canada tended to break away from private or state entities (Hudson’s Bay Company/NWMP/CPR);
- Hospitals are buildings that never truly finish construction and exist in a constant state of renovation and reorganization.
The lecture will start with an overview of what general hospitals were like in the 19th century and how radically that changed during the 20th century. It will focus on the role of communities in establishing and maintaining these institutions.
“I started out studying the history of architecture, only to realize I was just as interested in medicine. Researching the building and spatial organization of hospitals allowed me to join those interests,” says Sweeney.
To learn more about Sweeney’s background and research journey, read his profile on the algomau.ca website: Reflections on Algoma.
The lecture is free and open to the public. It will take place on Wednesday, November 22 at 7pm in the Doc Brown Lounge (EW 205).