Monday, July 12, 2010

Artefacts, Memories and Inspiration


I know – let’s all go to the dentist!

Surely not something one would hear often, but after a successful trip to the specialists of the buccal and lingual I thought I might explore the realm of the enamel artist in Chilliwack.

As we walk about the Chilliwack Museum storage area we find, glowing in that all too familiar green colour, the dentist’s drill reminiscent of my 1960s. I stand in suspended belief recalling my early visits. I do not really remember sitting in the chair. My memory recall system suggests that it was more of an intense desire, and at anytime, that I would be launched from the chair similar to that fellow from the James Bond Aston Martin Corgi toy I cherished. (I wonder where the little blue guy in the passenger seat ever went?)

However, like the Aston Martin the style of dental equipment has changed and no longer resembles those green machines that seem so similar to a character from Dr. Who. I’ve changed too, now I am 007 or at least 008 in the chair, now in the Aston Martin's driver's seat, no longer waiting to be propelled! Calm, cool and collected I ask questions and gather information that might be applied to the dental collections of the museum.

Back in storage I wander over to Unit Two where a cased set of dentures are kept and recall our one summer student who became a dentist. I open the case and have a look. We know who wore these dentures, but I must have Dr. Kathy visit and tell us more. It’s strange too - thinking about collections and how they enable us to recall our own past and interests. I briefly return to my visit of the Gillies Archives, Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup, England. Here is an amazing collection of original material relating to the reconstruction of soldier’s faces, jaws, and teeth from the First World War - very powerful, and extremely emotive. I recall telling the dentist’s sister about this early place of care and the related website she saw online, and how thrilled we were to hear she was accepted to medical school. That’s the power of artefacts, archives and the past. One just has to have some imagination.

It’s thanks to one donor that we have many dental objects that belonged to Dr. J.C. MacDonald who graduated as a dentist in 1911. In 1917 he moved to Chilliwack and took over the dental practice of Dr. Hacking continuing to work in the field until his retirement in 1959. Our green dental drill came from the office of Dr. Newby who, after nearly 60 years of work, is thought to be one of the longest practicing dentists in all of Canada.

All in all it makes me wonder what year my early dentists graduated, especially the first one with the treadle style drill. That was another time and another place – it’s magical how artefacts can transport people in time.

Image: The dental drill from the office of Dr. Newby.

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