What do Lucy Laud Montgomery and mental health have in common? A lot, actually...as illustrated in an exhibit curated by student Jenna Philbrick. The exhibit explores Montgomery's little-known struggles with mental illness throughout her life, as documented in the author's many journals.
The display includes one of those journals – on loan from the University of Guelph – along with early editions of her novels and other personal items, which really excites Jenna.
“The fact that we have one of L. M, Montgomery’s journals on loan for the exhibit is phenomenal, and her journals are certainly my favourite part of the collection. Montgomery recorded nearly everything that happened in her life, and included countless pictures and newspaper clippings as well. They’re fantastic resources for anyone who is interested in Montgomery or life in Canada at the turn of the 20th Century.”
A long-time fan of the book Anne of Green Gables, when Jenna discovered the L. M. Montgomery collection was housed at the University of Guelph Library Archives, she knew she had to see it.
She had only recently learned of Montgomery’s struggles with mental health from a new Heritage Minute on the subject by Historica Canada. “Montgomery’s journals contain so much information about her daily life, her career, and of course, her mental health, so after doing some research, I decided to use that information as the basis of my final capstone project. This is the first time I’ve attempted to create an exhibit. It was both daunting and surprising how many components went into putting it together. The final assembling of the exhibit was my favourite part - it was incredibly rewarding to see months of hard work come together.”
When asked what inspired Jenna to put a mental health focus on the exhibit, she said it comes as a surprise to many that the author struggled with mental illness, especially because she was such a prolific writer.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to focus on this topic for the exhibit; I wanted to demonstrate that struggles with mental illness can happen to anyone, even our personal heroes and well-known individuals who have made an impact on our culture.
It is through this increased awareness that we can hopefully begin to decrease the stigma that still surrounds mental illness in our society.”
Yet often, when my dark moods come: L. M. Montgomery and mental health in the early 20th Century is on display at Special Collections & Archives until April 30, 2019.