During the years Saranac Lake was a health resort, many TB patients filled their time by making arts and crafts. These activities furnished a crucial sense of purpose for people struggling with isolation and boredom.
Before antibiotics, there was no real cure for TB, so doctors and nurses helped patients fight the disease by supporting their immune systems in every possible way. They provided good nursing care, healthy food, rest, moderate exercise, and attention to mental health through occupational therapy. At the Trudeau Sanatorium Workshop, and later at the Study and Craft Guild in town, patients and community members learned jewelry making, basket weaving, painting, and much more.
This past spring, we opened an exhibit titled “The Art of the Cure,” presenting some of the beautiful arts and crafts that grew out of our local history. Thinking about the parallels with our present times, I ducked into the museum this week to pick out a story from the exhibit to share in this letter.
I thought I would spend five minutes, but I couldn’t pull myself away. I couldn’t choose just one story. Dr. Trembley’s carved ducks, Temming jewelry, Mott’s pottery, paintings by Amy Jones, Kollecker’s photos — these creations all resonate in a deeper way in this strange new time. These objects, which have all outlasted the artists who made them, have stories to tell about the creativity and optimism of the human spirit in the face of a dreaded disease.
In order to make “The Art of the Cure” available during these homebound days, we have uploaded the entire exhibit online here. I hope you will take a tour, and let us know what stories resonate for you.
What pastimes give you a sense of purpose during this unusual time? What gifts do you treasure as reminders of someone who cares about you?
Historic Saranac Lake
Images: Betty and Martin Koop working on jewelry, Historic Saranac Lake collection, courtesy of Theresa Brown. Pipe holder, Historic Saranac Lake collection, courtesy of Jim Meade.
Students in the Clarkson University Occupational Therapy program on a tour to the Trudeau Sanatorium Workshop, January 2020.
From the Porch
We're posting all the latest news, videos, and stories from Historic Saranac Lake's oral history project and Cure Porch on Wheels here. Stay tuned for Talking Points on Sunday, Live from the Porch on Tuesday and Saturdays, and other weekly offerings!