Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


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Gravestone Conservation & Social Media: Benefits and Challenges of the Online Dissemination of Gravestone Cleaning

Hi everyone, this is a blog post version of the talk I gave at the Death, Dying, & Disposal 15 conference this past week (#DDD15). It was my very first DDD conference, and while digital, I was very excited to attend! Digital conferences are exhausting and maybe not as easy for networking or getting together in the ways that traditional in person conferences have been, but they really open attendance doors for people who might not be able to travel around the world for talks every year! I presented from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, on the traditional territory of the Beothuk and Mi’kmaq people, and acknowledge their ownership of the land and my place here as a settler.

My talk was titled “Gravestone Conservation & Social Media: Benefits and Challenges of the Online Dissemination of Gravestone Cleaning”. If you know of any other examples of gravestone cleaning online that you’d like to share with me, I’d love to see them!

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PhD Fieldwork 2: Graveyard Tours & NLAS talks

Back for another research blog instalment! The past few weeks have been pretty busy, with Black Cat projects, some comps reading, a camping trip and hiking in Gros Morne, getting my 2nd covid vaccine, and my parents coming out to visit. We still managed to sneak in a little community archaeology engagement though, which turned out to be sort of a conjuncture between the NLAS (Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeology Society) ((I’m the VP this year)) and my own research in New Perlican.

The town of New Perlican was holding their annual Heritage Day this past Saturday, and the NLAS went down with our museum in a box / ‘edukit’ to talk to anyone interested about archaeology in the province. I was also asked to give a short tour and talk about the Bloody Point burial site, which is part of my PhD research! Check HERE and HERE if you need to get caught up on the site! It was an amazing day, and I’m excited to share it with you all!

Looking towards New Perlican from the road to Bloody Point (photo by author 2021)
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PhD Fieldwork Part 1: Surveying Burial Grounds in New Perlican, NL

I survived my first week back in the field! This past week was the first week of my PhD fieldwork and I could not be more excited to share it with all of you! I find blogging about my fieldwork and research as a go a really good way to gather my thoughts about the process, as well as share all of that with you, dear readers, who may not be archaeologists or know what goes into archaeological research.

My fieldwork this week involved surveying some of the historical burial grounds in New Perlican. Part of what I’m interested in exploring in my PhD research is the development and changes to the burial landscape within a community. New Perlican has been the home of settlers for about 400 years, and I will be exploring how their burial spaces changed and evolved with the community through the years! Part of that work is recording and mapping the older burial grounds themselves, taking stock of the gravestones that are in each site, the styles, how the community used and related to the sites.

Most of that analysis is for later though, this week was the mapping itself! Buckle in folks, this could be a long one.
(all photos in this post were taken by me)

View from the Hefford Plantation (photo by author 2021)
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Spade & the Grave x Archaeology Now: Tiny Lecture Series

Hello readers, I hope you are having a lovely weekend and first day of spring! Here in Newfoundland, the snow is still sticking around but I can see the walkway outside my door again, so we may be getting close to actual spring weather. As much as I like the winter, I am looking forward to not scraping the car off in the morning or struggling to clear a path to the door through snow that is already turning into ice blocks. Also, with warmer weather comes the hopeful inching closer of the field season (covid restrictions permitting). Everyone wear your masks and wash your hands, so my colleagues and I can stomp around graveyards and dig holes (not in the graveyards), please!

I haven’t had much to blog about recently, as I am in the last couple weeks of my PhD coursework! Hard to believe that this part of my degree program is nearly finished! I’ve been working on outlining the topics and questions for my comprehensive exams this semester, writing little sections on my manuscript every week, sprucing up the NLAS website (please go check us out!), and working on another little project that is soooo cool, but I can’t share yet! Get excited though, it’s going to rule.

A few weeks ago, however, I got the chance to work with ‘Archaeology Now‘! Archaeology Now is a:

Houston-based affiliate of a nationwide organization—the Archaeological Institute of America. [They] were founded in 1967 by Dominique De Menil, Philip Oliver Smith, and Walter Widrig. Today, we present an ambitious series of events for the public focused on our many stories through time. [Their mission is to] promotes awareness and appreciation of world cultures through archaeology.

I was invited to film an episode for their ‘Tiny Lecture Series’ for their youtube channel, about my book project on hexfoils and other protective symbols in a mortuary context for Berghahn Books. After a few trial runs with weird lighting, we made the video below, which I am super happy to share with you all. I hope you enjoy the finished lecture that I filmed in the middle of our entryroom / library, and know that between all takes, my cats were climbing the bookshelves, sitting on the chair with the tripod on it and making it all vibrate while scratching themselves, and yelling at me in confusing! Also, there are hexfoils!


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CBC Article: This archeologist has made it her life’s work to preserve decaying history in N.L.’s cemeteries

A handful of weeks ago, before the latest alert level 5 lockdown here in Newfoundland, I had the opportunity to meet with CBC contributor Andie Bulman to discuss my PhD research and our new little business, Black Cat Cemetery Preservation. It was wonderful to chat with her, and as any research knows, I loved the opportunity to talk about my research!

The article, which opens with an image of me working at Woodland Cemetery in London, Ontario in 2019, discusses my PhD research on burial grounds, concerns with gravestone conservation, and what we hope to accomplish with our (mine and my husband Ian’s) business. It’s a wonderful platform that I am so grateful to have, and I hope the message gets spread far and wide!

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“Discussing Gravestone Conservation Digitally: Disseminating Data & Advice through Blogging & Social Media” #DigiDeath Online Conference

A photo of me in 2019, working at Brickstreet Cemetery, London, ON.

Today’s post is an extended version of the presentation I gave on twitter on January 27th, 2021, for the University of Chester Archaeology Student conference, ‘DigiDeath’. A thank you to the conference & Prof. Howard Williams for the invitation to present on my public archaeology work online. Without further adieu, my presentation! This presentation was done on twitter, so the formatting will reference that format.

Abstract: This presentation will discuss the benefits and pitfalls of utilizing digital means, such as twitter, facebook, and blogs, to disseminate gravestone documentation and conservation information. As a heritage professional and historic archaeologist, my research discussions online often brings me into direct contact with the public, volunteers who provide the majority of the restoration of historic burial grounds. I will discuss how we can utilize these channels to ensure up-to-date conservation techniques are making it to these groups, and how we can all benefit from a digital communication for conservation.

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Engagement with Death & Burial: Questions & Comments to a Burial Archaeologist

You might have seen in one of my more recent posts that I was involved in the Doors Open event in London, answering questions and giving tours of two burial grounds that I worked at over the past years: Woodland Cemetery and the Brick Street Cemetery. I’m not going to reiterate that post (though it is linked above if you wanted to check it out), but in reminiscing that even earlier this week, I found myself thinking a bit more about public archaeology of death and burial and how we interpret these topics to the public.

First thing in January I will be presenting a poster at the Society for Historical Archaeology conference with my friend Sarah that follows a little in line with this topic. Our poster is titled “In Memoriam: Challenges in Historic Burial Ground Conservation” and some of these challenges arise when information about conservation and burial grounds are adequately communicated to the public. I’ll be posting more about the poster in Jan, but it bleeds into today’s topic a little!

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A view of Woodland Cemetery, Section R, facing west. 

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