We’re nearly through April suddenly, friends, and as I look out my office window at the snow drifts covering the old wooden boats in my neighbour’s backyard, which is slowly melting away, I decided to do a little update on how my dissertation writing is going! Lets start with a summary of what I’ve been up to, and then how I’ve been structuring my work and project going forward!
My blog has been all conference travel and research trips recently, and I feel like it’s been a very hectic last few months. In September 2022, we attended the Death & Culture IV conference in York (& went on our belated honeymoon), then in October I visited Halifax, Nova Scotia, to do some research at the provincial archives and so a site visit out in Annapolis Royal where I had a great meeting with Parks Canada and Mapannapolis staff! In November, I was doing research at home, and then we travelled to Arizona to visit my inlaws and their new house, and we got to see a few very interesting 19th-century burial grounds in the desert! We didn’t go anywhere in December, but I was frantically finishing my 2nd book manuscript which is now with my editor, and resting over the holidays. In the first week of January, we were packed back up and off to Lisbon, Portugal, for the Society for Historical Archaeology’s annual conference and a few days of exploring post-conference! Portugal was amazing, Ian and I both want to go back asap.
Finally, I had a second research trip in February to Boston, Massachussets and the Hudson River Valley, New York! I went to the Boston Public Library’s Special Collections which was just an amazing experience (both for research and for seeing cool archives), and the Mass Historical Society’s archives while in the city, then site visits to Sleepy Hollow and Albany, NY, as well as a meeting with the archaeology staff at the New York State Museum in Albany. Travel is done for the next little bit, and I’m pretty excited to not be in the Toronto airport for a few months!
Last September 2022, My husband Ian and I went on our very-belated honeymoon to Edinburgh and the Orkney Islands. One of the sites that we visited that we were totally in awe of was St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, the largest town on Mainland Orkney. The original cathedral was constructed in the 12th century, when the islands were under Norse rule, and was named for Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney. It was constructed in the Romanesque style with examples of Norman architecture as well, and was built with local red sandstone from Kirkwall and yellow sandstone from the island of Eday (where the memoir ‘Close to Where the Heart Gives Out’ is set. Here is an interview with the author!).
We had the chance to visit the cathedral twice, and I still don’t think we saw everything! There were amazing examples of late and post-medieval funerary sculpture throughout the church, with beautiful memento mori designs throughout. On our second visit, I noticed that some of the ledgers that had been set upright against the walls of the church had coffins as part of the designs, and that not all of the coffin styles were the same. I pulled out my sketchbook and raced around the cathedral as it was about to close, quickly writing down the dates and coffin styles on all the ledgers that had one, to conduct a quick survey on coffin styles depicted in 17th-century Orkney funerary monuments!
I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats, waiting for the site visit portion of my research trip blogs, right? Right?? Well don’t you worry at all, I’ve got all that fieldwork goodness for you here! (is this a weird way to start a research blog? haha)
The second half of my research trip consisted of site visits to three of ‘my’ Dutch settlements that I’m looking at for the landscape analysis portion of my dissertation research. Those sites are the infamous Sleepy Hollow, NY, as well as the town of Kingston, and Albany, NY. You might be familiar with Albany from the Broadway Hamilton, as the city where Philip Schuyler and the Schuyler sisters lived (coincidently we did go see Hamilton live in Boston, and it was amazing, 100/10), and you likely already know a little bit about Sleepy Hollow, so lets get into what I was doing there, and what I’m looking at for these sites!
The PhD research is rolling along, dear reader! It has its ups and downs, and I’m currently both researching some parts while writing others that are further along the research pipeline, and I’m having a pretty good time with it so far! Writing took a pause at the beginning of February so I could take my second research trip to New England and New York State, in order to conduct several site visits of Dutch burial grounds in the Hudson River Valley, as well as the archives in Boston. So far I’ve found some very interesting materials, and would love to share a little about the process with you today!
It’s time for another travel blog, coming to you live from…my home office where I am writing this very jetlagged, because we got home at 2am yesterday after 27 hrs of travelling! This year, the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) hosted their annual general meeting and conference in Lisbon, and over 900 archaeologists descended on the city to attend the event. This conference was meant to be held in Jan 2021 originally, but for some weird reason that I couldn’t possibly remember, they had to push it forward by two years, and thankfully were able to go ahead with Lisbon 2023 instead! So here we are, drinking vinho verde and talking about archaeology in a gorgeous city of colourful tiles and Moorish castle ruins.
The conference ran from January 4-7, 2023 and was hosted at Universidade NOVA de Lisboa. We were able to volunteer as grad students this year to help with registration and monitoring sessions in exchange for not being charged the registration fee for the conference, which is a great initiative that the SHA always has at their conferences. We spent about 8 hrs each (me and my husband, Ian), volunteering over two of the conference days, and attended a load of talks and some events as well! This is going to be a lot of conference stuff, as well as a lot of talking about food and wine, as you do.
I’ve just returned from a family trip to Arizona, USA! My in-laws recently retired and built a house down there, and this was our first trip down to see the new place, as well as the rest of the family for American Thanksgiving. It was super fun to explore a new spot, and see a load of cacti and interesting animals that we definitely don’t have in Newfoundland (although I still haven’t seen any javelinas…), and of course see all of my husband’s family who we haven’t see since at least 2019 or earlier!
One of the most exciting non-family-visiting parts of the trip was the opportunity to visit the famous Vulture City, tucked in the shadow of the looming Vulture Peak. There is a hiking trail to the top of the mountain, but unfortunately it was closed for maintenance while we were there, so hopefully on a future visit we’ll get a really good view of the site! Vulture City was founded in 1863, after Henry Wickenburg, a Germany immigrant, found gold in a nearby quartz outcrop. Soon after the Vulture Mine was established and the settlement soon followed. You can find out a little more about the history of the community at the link HERE, as well as some amazing historic photos. The mine was in operation from 1863 to 1942, when it closed due to WWII (and actually it’s back in operation today, but that property is not open to the public). There is something deathy in this holiday diary too, so read on!
Happy November, readers! It’s been a hectic last few weeks in our house, and I think I’ve spent just as much time living out of a suitcase this fall as I have at home… still not unpacking my suitcase. Whoops. Early in October, I travelled to Nova Scotia for a week for my PhD research. I visited the Nova Scotia Archives, the Old Burial Ground, the Nova Scotia Museums offsite storage, and travelled out to Annapolis Royal to visit the Garrison Burying Ground and meet with Parks Canada and Mapannapolis staff in order to discuss the history of the site. It was a really amazing trip, and I got to stay with my dear friends in Dartmouth as well, which is just a research trip bonus!
There is no such thing as a posting schedule when you’re doing your PhD and running a business part time, and writing a book! I do these things to myself, and it’s great! We have just returned from a trip to the UK, where I presented some of my ongoing research at the Death & Culture IV conference, held at the York St. John Campus in the heart of York. York is definitely one of my favourite cities in the UK that I’ve gotten the chance to spend time in, so returning this fall to meet up with friends and talk about research was a huge treat! The rest of the trip was our honeymoon (belated by covid for 2 years, whoops), and I’ll do a separate post about the death-related things we saw on that trip later on! It was a very eventful trip overall, so lets get into it!
The conference, held every 2 years, was put on by the Death & Culture Network (DaCNet) through the University of York, describes itself as promoting “the continuing engagement with the study of death, and acts as a forum for networking and the sharing of multidisciplinary death scholarship”. I presented my ongoing research on the burial grounds of New Perlican, the mapping that has been carried out through our surveys, and what that can tell us about the burial landscape of the community.
(This would be a great paper title, wouldn’t it? I call it for later!)
Welcome back, readers! It has been quite the hectic summer so far this year, between PhD research, passing my thesis proposal defence at the end of May, gravestone restoration fieldwork, and a quick trip with my dad across Canada in the family van. Just before I flew west though, my husband and I visited the historic Burgess Property in Whiteway, NL. The property was receiving a new heritage plaque in honour of its designated status as a heritage property within the province, and there was a great turnout!
The buildings were constructed between the 1860s and 1900, and the complex includes former sawmill, a stable and store, a root cellar, a fishing stage, and the family home. It was wonderful to finally be able to visit the site and take a look around the structures, but I was there for a very specific reason…apotropaic magic. I know this post isn’t about gravestones per-say, but if you have been a reader for a little while, you’ll know that I’m currently studying and writing a manuscript about the use of protective magic on graves, and these symbols are among the ones we see in both contexts!
This week we wrapped up my fieldwork surveying in New Perlican! This part of my project, which I’ve written about a few times already in earlier blog posts, involves using a total station theodolite to survey and record the location of gravestones at historic burial grounds in New Perlican in order to create maps of the sites for the local archives and to use in my dissertation research on the evolution of the burial spaces in a single community over 400 years. You can find those earlier posts here: PhD Fieldwork Part 1, PhD Fieldwork 2, and Burial Ground Mapping.
This last round of surveying (before all the total stations vanished to field schools and Labrador for the summer) took place at St. Augustine’s Cemetery 1, and yes, there is a second one of the same name! Due to the size and complexity (ie: trees) of the site, I decided to record only the field stones at this location. Often overlooked, field stones are locally sourced grave markers that typically don’t have inscriptions but show a lot of importance in burial marking traditions in a community.