The Research Begins!

As mentioned in the first blog post of the summer, my research will focus on the city burial grounds of Woodland Cemetery from the mid- to late-nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. My findings will then be translated into a walking tour that will take place at the beginning of July. The city burial areas of the cemetery have had a few different names including “pauper’s graves,” “potter’s fields,” and “poor grounds,” all of which reflect a rather stigmatized society. Again, these graves would have been the resting places of those who could not afford or were deemed unworthy of a proper Christian burial. We can find those who died by suicide, those whose professions were untraditional or lack-lustre (read: sex workers and labourers), or those who were detained at the Asylum buried here. When I write, “find,” it is important to note that we truly do have to search for these people. Their markers are often covered by the earth or completely nonexistent. Hannah and Rachel, our Monument Conservators, are tasked with probing the grounds and lifting up any stones that they might find beneath the surface before cleaning and re-placing them. Even our archival records show little evidence of these burials beyond their scribbled names.

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You can see here where a stone has been partially covered by the grass.

Given that most burials at the time followed an elaborate Victorian tradition, where intricate monuments and flamboyant ceremonies memorialized loved ones, the city burial grounds provide a stark contrast. The stones that we do find are plain, showing only a name and date of death sans decorative furnishings or carved details. If we consider the social and political climates of the 1800s these findings, or lack there of, are expected. It was not uncommon for a family to banish a member for their shameful “insanity” or for their crimes, leaving that person without any next-of-kin. We should keep in mind that abandonment and banishing, of course, are not the case for all city burials at the time and there is no universal narrative that can speak for each person or family. Sometimes, the city would bury a person who had immigrated to Canada without any friends or family, someone who started a new life by themself here in London.

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This marker was completely underground. Hannah and Rachel probed the soil and after hearing a faint “clink” they knew that there was something to dig up! You can even see the soil  that was imprinted from the marker’s lettering. Note the lack of ornament on the stone– this was typical for city burials.

A difficult task that I have encountered in my research is determining which people to feature on our walking tour. Since there is a lack of information about most of the people who were given city burials, it is tough to determine an all-inclusive story. We do have records of a man who was charged on multiple accounts for physically and emotionally abusing his partner. He is one of the few people on my list that have extensive records. The question is, do we want to feature someone who acted so aggressively simply because he is the only person about whom we have lots of information? How do we tell the stories of these “paupers” without romanticising crime and violence? Should a “full story” include the dark sides of humanity? Perhaps more productive would be to tell the story of his wife. This way, we can lessen the margin for victimization in order to present a more supportive recounting of events. We could also use this man’s story as representative of a bigger picture, one that promotes healthy relationships and resilience. At the end of the day, regardless of his crimes, the man of this story was someone who fell to the human condition of imperfection. He is still worthy of acknowledgement and remembrance. No matter which way we decide to present our research, the stories of the city burial grounds are going to be difficult to tell, but I look forward to investigating everything that makes London’s history so rich. I encourage you to also think about how we determine which memories are preserved and how we go about doing so.

If you have any input or suggestions that could help me in my research, I invite you to leave a comment!

— Leah

Introducing the Woodland Cemetery’s Summer 2018 Team!

The Woodland Cemetery’s Summer 2018 team is here with new faces! For the next three (ish) months, Hannah Foulds, Rachel Sharp, and Leah Abaza will tackle some of Woodland’s deeply buried histories. While Leah researches the records and archives, Hannah and Rachel will probe the grounds to uncover some of the lost memories that need a little love.

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Left to right: Rachel Sharp, Leah Abaza, Hannah Foulds

As Monument Conservators, Hannah and Rachel’s job is to find monuments that have been missing underground after falling over and sinking below the grass-covered surface. They will then lift the monuments out of the ground (with some help from Joey) and clean them. From here, they will repair monuments that have breaks or cracks using various tools like epoxy, limestone screening, and fibreglass rods. Once the repairs are finished, it is time to either stand the monuments upright or to ensure that they are safely secured on the ground. Conserving these stones is a large part of what will allow them to stand the test of time. Imagine what a year’s worth of debris and weathering can do to a stone outside; now, imagine how a few decades could impact the same stones if the proper care is not applied. So far, Hannah and Rachel have found more than ten monuments underground and have restored them to near perfection!

Repairing Stones
This stone was found buried underground, covered in dirt, and in pieces. Hannah and Rachel cleaned the stone, then put it back together using an epoxy and fibreglass rods. Now it is waiting to dry before the next pieces can be added!

Leah will be working in the office to provide Hannah and Rachel with some starting points for their monument probing. To kick-start the Summer research, she will look into the individuals who were buried in city lots, formerly known as “free ground,” “potter’s fields,” and “pauper’s graves.” These are the resting places of people who were considered either unworthy of proper Christian burial or who could not afford family lots in the 1800s to the early 1900s. It is important to recognize these individuals because doing so emphasizes respect and empathy as integral not only to the mourning processes of any denomination, but to general human interaction and compassion.

Join us as we document the summer’s projects right here on the Woodland Cemetery History blog!

You can also follow us on our social media:

Facebook: Woodland Cemetery History

Twitter: @woodlandhistory

Instagram: @woodlandcemeteryhistory

We’re Hiring for History – Summer 2018!

05/10/2018 – Applications are now closed! Thank you to those who applied, and we look forward to introducing our new summer team shortly!

31676610_627618404249993_7256193083035877376_oWe’re ready to kick things into gear at Woodland Cemetery for another summer of research, preservation, and public history! We are looking for both Monument Conservators and an Historian/Archivist.

Do you know a current student who would be interested in working for us this summer? Send them this blog post and have them send in a resume by Wednesday night!

Details:

 

Monument Conservator Position:

Are you a current student who is innovative, committed, and passionate about history? We are offering positions as our Monument Conservator Team through the Canada Summer Jobs program.
If you are qualified and returning to university or college this fall, then apply by May 9, 2018.

We are looking for current students with an interest in historical and/or archaeological restoration work to restore Victorian era-monuments at Woodland Cemetery. Applicants must be willing and able to undertake outdoor work on a daily basis.

Requirements (as dictated by Student Jobs Canada):
– must be between 15 and 30 years of age
– must have been registered as a full-time student during the preceding academic year
– must intend to return to school on a full-time basis during the next academic year
– must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person on whom refugee protection has been conferred

Woodland is a historic cemetery with many original monuments that date back to the early 19th century. Due to the elements and lack of previous conservations efforts, many of these priceless hand-carved monuments are at risk of being lost. The students hired for this position will be specially trained to recover and restore these monuments, continuing the Monument Restoration Initiative that Woodland founded in 2014.

Job Description
Students will be tasked with the identification, recovery, restoration, and logging of the monuments, as well as research into the cultural and historical contexts of these pieces of memorialization (including the stories of early immigrants to Canada).
Students will also track and record their progress while they find, uncover, and fix Victorian-era monuments, in order that the London community can see the progress being made in uncovering history on Woodland’s grounds.

For a previous example of our work, see here:http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/headstones-cemetery-confederation-london-1.4156558

_________________________________________
TO APPLY:
We value diversity and inclusion and encourage any qualified person to apply.
Apply by May 9, 2018 to: Levi Hord, Historian and Archivist at l.hord@woodlandcemetery.on.ca with the subject line: Monument Conservator Position
Please send a cover letter detailing how your skills, experience, and education fit with this position, together with your resume, in a single file in Word or PDF format.
Note: You must confirm in your letter that you are starting or returning to full-time college or university in the fall.
All applications received will be acknowledged with a reply email. However, only those to be invited for an interview will be contacted.
No phone calls, please.

 

 

Historian/Archivist Position:

Are you a current student who is innovative, committed, and passionate about history? We are offering one position as our Historian / Archivist through the Canada Summer Jobs program.

If you are qualified and returning to university or college this fall, then apply by May 9, 2018.

We are looking for someone interested and/or trained in historical research, and with creative vision, to work in our public history program.
Preference will be given to candidates who are interested in employment in this position for subsequent summers and are willing to lead and develop our historical research program.

Requirements (as dictated by Student Jobs Canada):
– must be between 15 and 30 years of age
– must have been registered as a full-time student during the preceding academic year
– must intend to return to school on a full-time basis during the next academic year
– must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person on whom refugee protection has been conferred

Job Description
You will be responsible for
1) researching using the primary source material in Woodland’s archives as well as community resources such as the London Room to uncover the stories of Londoners buried at Woodland Cemetery;
2) researching for and creating at least two new historical walking tours (including supplementary materials such as brochures and videos,
3) organizing and executing an event in the form of a walking tour that is open to the public;
4) creating a mobile version of this walking tour to offer to school/educational groups, seniors’ organizations and nursing homes, and interested groups;
5) digitizing the archival materials in Woodland’s possession that predate 1880 and making these documents searchable and available to the public;
6) managing online engagement and creating public history initiatives to get Londoners interested and involved in our history.

Specific project initiatives planned for this summer include a walking tour focused on local London artists and authors, as well as a social media campaign focused on increasing genealogical projects within the community (though programming will also be open to your creative input).

____________________________________________
TO APPLY:

We value diversity and inclusion and encourage any qualified person to apply.
Apply by May 9, 2018 to: Levi Hord, Historian and Archivist at l.hord@woodlandcemetery.on.ca with the subject line: Historian / Archivist Position
Please send a cover letter detailing how your skills, experience, and education fit with this position, together with your resume, in a single file in Word or PDF format.
Note: You must confirm in your letter that you are starting or returning to full-time college or university in the fall.
All applications received will be acknowledged with a reply email. However, only those to be invited for an interview will be contacted.
No phone calls, please.