Insane or in Vain: Woodland’s “Poor Grounds” and the London Asylum for the Insane

This week I write about the London Asylum for the Insane because of its prevalence in my research about the Victorian-era “poor grounds.” In our historical records there is usually a home address; however, for many who are buried in the “poor grounds,” the asylum is listed. Though this information is not of public concern today, it is worthwhile to speculate why it would have been recorded previously and why the asylum would have been noted instead of one’s permanent address. Did these people have homes? Did they have families? If not, why? Here is a little history about the asylum:

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Photograph taken July 28, 2012 by Londononbridge. The former London Asylum would have been located at 850 Highbury Avenue. Still standing is the main examination building and infirmary.

In 1870, London introduced its first Asylum. It was a place for the disorderly, the insane, and the poor. As one of the first institutions to treat mental illness in Ontario, the London Asylum for the Insane was revolutionary. Within days, their 500 beds were full.

Located outside of the city center, the asylum initially focused on compassionate care and moral therapy. Their intent was to treat the patient as a whole being rather than focusing on a single symptom. As the Science Museum’s History of Medicine department in England describes, a “patient had a better chance of recovery if treated like a child rather than an animal.” These treatment plans suggested that rural seclusion and social conformity were the keys to one’s mental health. Patients would be “bettered” as members of society, fitting in with the community by keeping steady jobs and following strict social norms, thus curing their mental illnesses. I imagine that suppressing one’s sense of individuality in favour of conformity would be counterproductive to improving mental health today. However, I theorize that those who were subjected to moral therapy and compassionate care in the nineteenth century would have been happy to conform. Considering their society’s views on health at the time, where compliancy meant sanity and sanity was the ultimate goal, one’s sense of belonging would have been paramount.

Doctors at the asylum also performed several experimental surgeries. In fact Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke, who believed failed reproductive organs to be the source of mental illness or “hysteria” in women, executed routine hysterectomies. Moving into the 1930s, shock therapy was introduced to treat symptoms of schizophrenia by inducing seizures. Lobotomies were also completed between 1944 and 1967; though we do not know how many were performed in London, there were about 1 000 between these 23 years across Ontario.

One reason that someone would be sent to the asylum includes sexual deviation. What is shockingly expectant is that masturbation was identified as the root cause of a majority of mental illnesses. Dr. Bucke thought he had remedied this “self-abuse” by inserting a metal wire into the foreskin of a man’s penis so that masturbation was too painful and uncomfortable. Dr. Bucke did not know that masturbation is actually a positive action for sexual health and is not the cause of mental illness, as he would later discover after 11 failed attempts of reversing “self-abuse.”

You will find that The London Asylum for the Insane went through a few name changes which all reflect changing attitudes and discoveries about mental health. The first renaming occurred in 1932 resulting in the “Ontario Hospital for the Mentally Ill, London.” Years later in 1968, the name changed to “London Psychiatric Hospital” and again in 2001 to “Regional Mental Health Care” until finally closing in 2014. These name changes are crucial in removing the stigma from mental illness. When we hear “asylum,” we imagine screaming patients running down halls before being locked in their prison-like cells. Using the term “care” is much more empathetic and agentic. In the early days of the LAI, living with a mental illness was shameful. Some families even mourned a member’s committal as though they had actually died. For this reason, some of the people who did die at the Asylum were destined for the “poor grounds” at the Woodland Cemetery.

For more information and an extended history of the London Asylum for the Insane, check out these links:

https://www.lib.uwo.ca/archives/virtualexhibits/londonasylum/index.html

http://explorationproject.org/london-insane-asylum/

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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.

Last Blog Entry

Hello everyone,

I can’t believe that today is our last day here at woodland! It really feels like the summer started just a few days ago. But I guess everything must come to an end.

Last few days were little slower than the usual, but we still got a lot of things done! We didn’t start any major projects, of course, since we didn’t want to leave any stones unfinished. After all, there are only so many things you can get done within few days. So instead, we went back to fixing individual stones that needed simple repairs. We stood up some monuments – the ones that had enough space between the end of the stone and the inscription because we don’t need a key for those – and we also edged multiple footstones. It is important to edge these stones once in a while because grass tend to cover them up with time. I guess we could say that even these small tasks allow us to preserve more history, which is why I really enjoyed this summer job.

Now, time for some reflection:

I absolutely loved working at Woodland as a monument conservator. I learned so many things I would not have learned elsewhere. First, I may have lived most of my life in London, but I honestly did not know much about London’s history. Working here, I learned so much about London. What a rich history this city has to offer! I also learned various skills that I never imagined to learn. I remember that in the beginning of the summer, our boss, Paul, saying that there are only handful of people in Ontario, if not Canada, who knows how to restore monuments. And surprise – we (Alyssa, Peter, MacKenzie and I) are now a part of those handful number of people. Not only that, but I was also able to hone my communication and problem-solving skills. I am sure all the valuable skills I learned from Woodland will come in handy at some point in my life.

Also, it was such a pleasure to work with all the staff here at Woodland. In one sentence: everyone was amazing. So many of woodland staff helped us throughout the summer and without them, we would not have been able to complete our projects. I don’t think I have ever met a better team to work with than the Woodland Team! Last but not least, I thank YOU for following our journey throughout the summer. I hope you enjoyed our journey as much as we did! We loved sharing our stories with you!!

Thank you everyone and for the last time,

Sunny

Last few days!

As the days until we finish our summer as Monument Conservators rapidly decline, my colleagues and I have been attempting to complete some basic repairs of random stones around Woodland. Peter and Jonathon had an interesting find. A lot of the stones we encounter have broken at the base, and many of the bases are missing. They are typically under the ground or have been thrown away at some point over the years. We usually probe on either side on the ends of the stone for the base, and sometimes we get lucky. However, Peter and Jonathon were looking at a stone that had no sign of the base at either end. They decided to lift the stone and probe underneath, and to our surprise, the key was directly underneath the stone. This surprised us, but it was great because it gave us something fun to work on for our last two weeks.

We also completed the documentary today (and by we, I mean Sunny and Alyssa). That might be airing on Rogers TV, but will definitely be put up on Woodland Cemeteries official website!

I should also use my last post to work on my final reflections of my summer here. This was honestly the best student summer job I could have imagined. I grew up with my mum instilling in me a love of history and she taught me that cemeteries were a direct connection to our past. I think this summer has just taught me to respect them even more, to understand the sheer amount of work that went into each stone that we see. It continues to amaze me the talent of the stonecutters, who were using basic tools to produce these brilliant works of art.

I also appreciate the work that goes into running a cemetery now more than ever. The team at Woodland works so seamlessly and everyone is genuinely interested and happy to do what they do. My boss Paul says that you should be able to put yourself in the shoes of the loved ones and feel compassion, and the day you can’t do that anymore is the day you should leave. I’ve learned a lot from him this summer. Whether it is about the management of the cemetery or about the battles of the American Civil War, he is always eager to impart his knowledge to us, something that we always appreciate.

The other members of Woodlands team were also equally responsible for making this an amazing summer for my team. They were patient with us when we ‘accidently’ borrowed their equipment and forgot to put it back, and they were always interested to see what new projects we were working on and to help when they could. Everyone works so hard, but they always have time to be kind and lend a hand, which is valued more then I can say.

Then, of course, I can’t forget our teacher Tom Klassen, who taught us everything we knew. We definitely would not have gotten as far as we could without his wisdom, and we always enjoyed working with him. He is brilliant at what he does, and I am looking forward to helping him teach my Masters in Public History course a bit about Monument Restoration in the fall!

Overall, it has been a wonderful summer and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Thank you once again to everyone who helped make this summer the best of my University career.

Reflections on Woodland

As the summer draws to a close and this blog nears its end for the year, I’ll devote my final post to reflecting on my experiences at the cemetery. I’ve spent nearly four months in a cemetery this summer, and I still enjoy the looks I get when telling people what my summer job was. As cliche as it may sound this summer has taught me a great deal not only about what it takes to preserve history, but also on the kind of role a cemetery plays in every day human life.

Every day at Woodland our team has striven to preserve history, whether by physically repairing monuments that go back as far as the early 1800s, or by conducting research to uncover the stories of those the stones were made for. But over this summer, we were forced to approach history in a slightly different manner than we are used to as academics. As students, we were accustomed to writing history in an academic manner, presenting research to be critiqued by our instructors and fellow students. This work was seldom read outside of the confines of academia. The same is true for the vast majority of academic publishing. What set our time at Woodland apart was that we actively sought to bring history out of the academic setting and into the public setting, which turned out to be an entirely new challenge for us.

When working on the Scottish site, we developed our display in a way that allowed curious visitors to walk among the stones and clearly experience the relics themselves. When we repaired buried or broken stones, it was not because they yielded new knowledge to us, it was because we wanted them to be accessible for the next hundred years to curious onlookers. Our research was not presented in 12 point font, Times New Roman, and cited according to the Chicago Manual of Citations. (For those who don’t know, this is generally the default way to present research in social sciences) Instead, it was published on our blog, on our Facebook, and on our Instagram, and aimed at the general public. Presenting it in such a manner is a vastly different experience for us, and one that we had to adjust to. We spent less time concerned with ensuring our writing was of the proper tone, and more time attempting to share knowledge and stories as far as possible. It was an entirely new experience that forced us to develop our public speaking skills and our outreach skills. Even on days where we were exhausted from work, we forced ourselves to be presentable, friendly, and approachable to curious onlookers who might have a few questions about what our work entails. Or perhaps they were wondering what I was doing wandering into old cemetery sections carrying a shovel.

In addition to approaching history in such a new way, I also learned of what a cemetery has to offer a society. A cemetery does not exist to serve the dead. The dead do not require a gravestone, a casket, or an urn. They do not require a funeral service, and they are certainly incapable of demanding such things. We as human’s could dispose of our dead in a far more efficient way than we do, but we choose not to. This is because cemeteries exist primarily to serve the living. It is the living who place value in laying our loved ones to rest in a dignified manner. Loss of a family member or friend is something every human being experiences throughout their life. It is a traumatic experience, and cemeteries allow us to begin the process of celebrating one’s life, preserving their legacy, and healing our broken hearts. We are provided with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that a loved one’s remains will be cared for, will be protected, and will remain undisturbed. A tombstone allows us to preserve their legacy, again giving us the comfort of mind that their life was not in vain, that they are not forgotten. A dignified funeral service provides families with a vital sense of closure, that allows the healing process to begin. The living need a physical place to mourn, and to remember. The memorial to John Parkinson Jr. is one such example of this. If you have not read my previous blog post, it was about a 17 year old Union soldier who died at Atlanta during the American Civil War, but is memorialized here at Woodland. Unable to return their son’s body to London, the Parkinsons decided to erect a memorial for John anyways, to provide themselves with a place to mourn, and with a sense of closure.

When we repair gravestones and display them in a dignified matter, we are serving those family and friends who paid dearly to have their loved one memorialized long into the future. The fight against time is a battle we can’t win, eventually all of the stones we work on, and all of the stones at Woodland will crumble and decay. But if we continue to make them accessible for at least the next several generations, then we can feel that we have done our part in both fulfilling grieving families’ desires, and preserving history as well.

It has been a privilege to serve at Woodland over the past several months, and an experience I will never forget. I carry with me great memories, new skills, and a sense of accomplishment.

An ancient Greek proverb states “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.” I think it summarizes why monument conservation is a worthy pursuit well.

Signing off for the last time,

Peter Dobrzynski

Final Thoughts for the Summer

Hi there!

As the summer winds down, I have been thinking about how I have accomplished and learned so many more things than I could have possibly imagined at the beginning of the summer. We completed almost the entire project of the Scottish Cemetery (130 stones!), repaired and restored approximately a dozen others around the cemetery, including ones that were completely underground, and stood up thirteen of the gravestones from Old St Paul’s Cemetery. We put together a walking tour, each of us completed several radio/tv/newspaper interviews, and we helped uncover some of the lost history of Woodland Cemetery.

During our last few weeks, we will be doing a couple of things. We are wrapping up our final project (the standing of the corner stones in Section U), we are doing  repairs to fallen gravestones around the cemetery (fallen or loose monuments), and we are hoping to finish up our video diary / documentary on tombstone archeology.

The video has been quite a challenge. Sunny and I have been learning to use Final Cut Pro, which has forced me to recall my high school days in media arts classes, and we have had to go out into the cemetery and get some final additional footage for the project. Regardless of whether it airs or not, I think that this part of the job has been the most challenging for me (I am not that great with technology), and may provide a great sense of satisfaction when it is complete. It encompasses most of the work we completed this summer, all the new skills we learned, our progressing thoughts and expectations of the job, and showcases our team’s deep appreciation for the history of Woodland Cemetery.

People don’t often acknowledge cemeteries. Yes, we drive by them on our way to work,  the grocery store, and the movies, but we look past them. We don’t see the beauty within historical cemeteries such as Woodland and the history it holds. I think most of us don’t really think about them until we are forced to go under unfortunate circumstances. When I was younger, cemeteries terrified me. It was only two years ago, when I was living in Europe, did I discover my deep appreciation for cemeteries and the ways in which they preserve memory. Working at Woodland has been a fantastic experience and I have greatly enjoyed my time here. Our manager, and every member of staff at Woodland works hard to preserve the cemetery’s natural beauty, help people through difficult times in their lives, and ensure that everyone’s deceased loved ones are guaranteed a proper and respectful memorialization, in whatever way the family wishes to do it.

Our work is not yet done at Woodland Cemetery. Hopefully next year’s students will be able to carry on our work and finish the projects we did not get the chance to complete.

Thank you for keeping up with our work!

For the last time,

Alyssa

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The Curious Case of Private John Parkinson Jr.

Located deep towards the back of Woodland Cemetery, in one of the ground’s oldest sections, lies a memorial to one John Parkinson Jr. A tall obelisk that dwarfs the graves of his parents buried beside him sheds light on the circumstances of his death. It reads “John, son of John and Bridget Parkinson, died at Atlanta, GA, October 15th 1864, aged 17 y’rs.”

Parkinson Stone

Immediately, this inspires curiosity in the observer. Why is there a memorial to a 17 year old at Woodland Cemetery in London, Ontario, when he died in Georgia? Although it was becoming more and more common for people from all walks of life to move about in the world, such an inscription still indicates interesting circumstances surrounding his death. At this point, anyone proficient in United States’ history will tell you that this was around the time of the Battle of Atlanta in the American Civil War.

Curious as to the possibility that John Parkinson may have served in the American Civil War I checked military records for anyone bearing his name. Immediately, I found a internment certificate that matched his name and age. As “John Parkinson” is a common name, the date of death was significant as it matched the date on his tombstone, confirming that this certificate did in fact belong to the Parkinson memorialized at Woodland. The document indicated that Parkinson had been buried in the Marietta National Cemetery, Georgia, and that he had a separate stone marking his actual burial location. internmentMarietta stone

The document also sheds light on his experience during the Civil War. It indicates that John served as a private in the Union Army, a member of the 10th Michigan Infantry. Curiously, the 10th Michigan Infantry, which operated from 1862-1865, was a volunteer battalion. This suggests that John Parkinson willingly traveled south to fight in the bloodiest conflict in American history.

Parkinson’s cause of death is listed in Union Army records as well, indicating that he succumbed to typhoid fever at a general hospital near Atlanta rather than being killed in combat. At the time, disease could be a far greater killer in war than combat itself, the inevitable result of thousands of humans packed close together, with poor hygiene practices and inadequate medical care. In fact, of the 20 deaths listed on the same page as John Parkinson, only one of them was killed in action.

Death Records 10th Michigan.jpg

However, there are still several questions about John Parkinson’s story that are more difficult to answer, such as his motivations for volunteering for the Union Army in the first place. An agricultural census taken in 1861 indicates that John Parkinson Sr. was a farmer in the region at the time, holding 30 acres of land. As such, we can assume that John Parkinson Jr. came from humble origins, and may have seen military service as a way to earn a decent wage.

Agricultural Census Middlesex

In a further step to uncover John Parkinson Jr.’s story, I accessed microfilm copies of the London Free Press from the Civil War Period, courtesy of Western University. While I did not track down any article describing a Londoner dying while serving the Union Army in the Civil War, there were several articles describing recruiting agents operating in the area. The Free Press alleged that recruiters were enticing young men from the area by painting an extremely enticing picture of life in the army, promising good wages and a dignified career. The article warned that such recruiters were not to be trusted, as some were not even representatives of the Union Army, but con artists seeking to steal the fee men paid for their uniforms and travel.

Based on such information it is entirely likely that John Parkinson Jr. was not content with his life as a farmer’s son for one reason or another, and instead traveled south to fight for the Union as a way of escaping from it. A recruiter may have played a prominent role in this decision, but that is uncertain. His parents, distraught as losing their son in a faraway land, chose to erect a monument at Woodland Cemetery so they could find a place to mourn and remember John. When the time came, they chose to be buried next to his monument.

I reached out to the 10th Michigan Re-enactment group, who still hold some files on the division, to see if any more details about his service could be revealed, however they could not provide me with anything new. Perhaps further research can uncover more details of what John experienced during his time serving in the army, as the story of a Londoner serving in the Union Army is certainly a unique one.

Documentary on Tombstone Archaeology?

Hello everyone,

Sorry for not posting a blog yesterday! I hope you had a great long weekend (that is if you are reading this from Canada; so if not, hope you had a good weekend regardless!). Our week so far has been very productive.

We came to a realization this week that we got only 12 work days, as of August 09, left for the summer! Wow! Time really does fly. It seems like the first day we started our job – May 4th – was yesterday. I like to think that our team accomplished a lot of things during the three month period. Throughout the summer, we have been thoroughly video recording what we were doing. So cleaning, repairing, giving tours, etc. were all recorded!

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Alyssa filming Peter and MacKenzie

Now, what are we doing with all these video footages, you may ask. We hope to make a documentary out of these footages to be aired on Rogers TV. For now, we are calling it the “Tombstone Archaeology” documentary. I think it will be very interesting given that our job is very interesting. So we are not too far in the process since we started editing it this week. But I would like to share the process we have made so far.

First, we, as a group, reviewed all the footages we have. It was both very enjoyable and embarrassing experience. Listening to all the conversations we had was pretty hilarious. And all those bloopers! They were very – and I mean VERY – funny. Of course, if we were making mistakes or were not successful doing some job and were caught on camera (for example, there is a footage of me failing to shovel), they were quite embarrassing to watch.

Then Alyssa and I, who are responsible for creating this documentary, created a general story line we want to tell through the documentary and labeled our footages accordingly. We believed we were on the right track. We had all the file numbers written down on a sheet of paper, and what could possibly go wrong?

video notes
Notes we were making for the documentary

Well, it was the file numbers that went wrong. As we were importing the video files to the program, Final Cut Pro, we are using, all the files renamed themselves. Video file #25 was no longer 25 but rather 20. This meant that Alyssa and I had to go through all the imported footages again to check if they were, in fact, the videos we wanted. When this was sorted out, we finally started editing the actual video! And this meant that we had to go through all the footages at least once more! We only did preliminary editing today. However, this was more tedious process than I had anticipated. All the side comments we made throughout the summer, made us laugh at the time, but editing those out… let’s just say it is less than pleasant. That being said, I am still enjoying the editing videos. I always enjoy learning new things! I can’t wait to finish editing them and share with you all.

… and a little bit more

For the past three months, we have learned a great deal about cemeteries. Our manager, Paul, is always eager to tell us everything he knows about the history of our cemetery and others around London, local historians such as Catherine McEwen and Dan Brock are eager to share their expertise on Middlesex County stonecarvers, and the librarians, archivists, and others working in the many libraries and archives we have visited alway seem pleased to see us and interested in our latest research. Everyone we have encountered has been extremely helpful in providing information and support in our efforts to uncover more and more Woodland Cemetery history.

As stated in the last blog post, Woodland was forced to move twice due to city expansion. Originally it was a church graveyard, but because it became overcrowded, a park-style cemetery was established outside city limits, where it was eventually overtaken by building and moved again to Woodland Park. These park-style cemeteries originated in Britain and were quickly picked up in the United States and Canada as well. Mourning was in fashion in the Victorian age, Queen Victoria’s mourning of her husband for much of her life influenced the way people thought of death and dying. Beautiful stone tablets were created as memorials for deceased loved ones and elaborate mourning customs were established to celebrate the dead. Death was romanticized, and was viewed as a natural part of life for the Victorians (see references to Victorian post-mortem photography). Cemeteries reflected this. While cities expanded and land within city limits became more desirable for living space, cemeteries were moved outside of cities to large parks for space and beautiful surroundings.

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Queen Victoria in mourning clothes

A few park-style cemeteries in England eventually became run down and repurposed into open spaces for the public. Gravestones were taken down or demolished and most signs that a cemetery was ever present vanished.

MS 421_6_1_5 Photograph of Leeds General Cemetery 1962
Leeds General Cemetery in disrepair. Leeds, England.
Woodhouse_Cemetery_-_Clarendon_Road_-_geograph.org.uk_-_402972
Woodhouse Cemetery in St George’s Field at the University of Leeds.

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Woodhouse Cemetery at the University of Leeds is a strange place. If one visits, it does not seem like a cemetery at all. The original stones that survived the area’s transformation are placed along a short path near one of the entrances and placed close together. The tiles that make up the walk way around the cemetery’s original chapel list the names of people who are buried in the field, with anywhere from one to around twenty on each stone. In the image above, you can see there is writing on the path (people’s names).

The Victorian cemetery allowed for people to openly celebrate the beauty of death. They would take picnics to the cemetery, visit their deceased loved ones, and make a day of it. They showcased the art of the day and popularized the idea of public parks for socializing and relaxing. They served as a beautiful quiet space inside of rapidly expanding, industrializing, and dirty cities.

However, the First World War ended this desire for park-style cemeteries. Death was no longer celebrated as young men died by the thousands, and death became viewed as more brutal, terrifying, and unknown. Cemeteries became quieter places, the sheer volume of deaths taking place during the war caused thousands of monuments to be erected in cemeteries to commemorate the brave sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands who fought for their country. Stones lost their unique artistry as death became less personal. Mourning became more private and with that, personality left the cemeteries.

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A war cemetery at Vimy Ridge in France.