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Royal BC Museum receives portrait of 1920s public health officer

Dr. Henry Esson Young is regarded today as the Dr. Bonnie Henry of his time
This portrait of early provincial health officer Dr. Henry Esson Young, painted by Mary Riter Hamilton in the 1910s, was recently acquired by the Royal BC Museum. (Courtesy of Royal BC Museum)

The Royal BC Museum has received a 100-year-old portrait painting of Dr. Henry Esson Young, a B.C. health officer from the 1920s who led the province’s efforts against that decade’s epidemics.

Young had treated smallpox and tuberculosis widely during his work in the early 20th century. He was depicted between 1910 and 1915 by later-acclaimed Canadian wartime painter Mary Riter Hamilton.

“This acquisition bridges 100 years of healthcare history in British Columbia,” said Dr. India Young, the museum’s curator of art and images, in a release. Drawing a comparison to Dr. Bonnie Henry, Young said the two Henrys shared common interests in preventative medicine and faced similar challenges as proponents of vaccination.

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The portrait came to the attention of Dr. India Young during her research project, Recollecting Women Artists.

Once accessioned, the painting will be available online through the BC Archives database. It will also be available for further research and may appear in future exhibitions on provincial art history, women artists or healthcare.

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About the Author: Greater Victoria News Staff

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