Changes come to Wilhelm Reich Museum before, during, after pandemic

RANGELEY — The Wilhelm Reich Museum — under the care and guidance of Mary Boyd Higgins for nearly 60 years until her death in January 2019 at the age of 93 — has entered a new era after a period of reflection. “Since the passing of Mary Boyd Higgins . . . things may have seemed rather quiet here at Orgonon,” noted David Silver, the museum’s director of operations.
The museum is devoted to the life and work of Wilhelm Reich, a medical doctor educated at the University of Vienna and trained as a psychiatrist under Julius von Wagner-Jauregg and Sigmund Freud.
According to the web site, “As a prominent psychoanalyst in Freud’s inner circle, Reich made path-breaking contributions to the understanding of psychiatric disorders, as well as to the theory and technique of psychoanalysis.”
During the summer of 2019, the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust — a non-profit organization running the museum and preserving Reich’s legacy by keeping his books in print, offering conferences, controlling access to his archives by researchers, as well as maintaining the property at Orgonon and keeping it open to the public — assembled a new, five-member board of directors, all of whom volunteer their time. In the fall of 2019, the board hired Silver to manage the day-to-day and work toward executing a newly created strategic plan. By early 2020, it became clear the COVID-19 situation would require in-person activities at Orgonon to be put on hold, but the organization kept busy, moving forward with the design of a new website and online store, cleaning up the remnants of a poorly-executed timber harvest marring the landscape, improving outreach and communications with its worldwide community of donors and supporters, as well as other initiatives.
“Our annual summer conference was moved online in 2020, and had the largest attendance ever, with about 100 participants from 15 countries,” Silver noted. The topic was “Wilhelm Reich’s Work with Infants and Children: Then and Now.” Building upon the worldwide interest in this conference by launching a series of monthly online talks and discussions on various topics related to the work of Wilhelm Reich, staff are actively planning another online conference for summer of 2021 — “Wilhelm Reich & Psychoanalysis” — proposing an in-person conference in 2022, the year of the 80th anniversary of the founding of Orgonon.
The museum’s new website went live in August 2020 at; the museum also maintains an active presence at the Wilhelm Reich Museum’s Facebook page. Anyone wishing to be informed about museum activities is encouraged to visit those sites and join the email list.
“We are happy to receive any questions you may have at or through the contact page on our website,” Silver said.
In order to safeguard the health of staff as well as the public during the ongoing pandemic, the museum and bookstore were closed to visitors, and the Natural Science Program was suspended during the summer of 2020 and will remain so through the summer of 2021.
“In addition, our need to focus our resources made it necessary to cancel events such as Breakfast with Santa,” Silver explained, adding “but engagement with the local community will always remain a high priority for the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust.”
Silver pointed out that the pandemic has affected Orgonon as well as many other venues. “We hear occasional rumors that we are closed or closing, or that the property is being sold,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
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