Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens


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Photography of Gravestones for a Historic Survey: A How-To Guide

This weekend, as the leaves are starting to change colour across Ontario, I have been thinking about gravestones (are you surprised?). More specifically, taking excellent photos for your historic survey of a burial ground. Of course, you can take photos any way you see fit, but this blog post is a guide to taking standard grave marker photos that optimise light, angle, and people that you have helping with the survey. Below, you will find examples of best practices for standardised gravestone photography, and some good examples of *not* to do.

I hope you can find some helpful tips in this post to take to your next project, or to share with a community that you are working with! All the photographs in this blog post were taken by me, unless otherwise noted.

The author kneeling to photograph a headstone (photo by Ian Petty 2020)
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Book Launch: Burial & Death in Colonial North America

I’m so pleased to announce the publication of my first book, ‘Burial and Death in Colonial North America: Exploring Interment Practices and Landscapes in 17th-Century British Settlements‘, published by Emerald Published Ltd!

This book has been in the works technically since 2018, but really several years prior, as it incorporates a lot of my Master’s research! It is also filled with a bunch of really cool other stuff about 17th-century burial landscapes and practices, coffins styles, soil stains (well, I think they’re cool), and protective symbols on graves!

Published in Emerald’s ‘Emerald Points’ series, the book is available for pre-order through the Emerald Publishing website, Amazon, and The Book Depository, as both an ebook and a print book (pre-orders are open on some sites). It will be available as an ebook through multiple carriers soon!

If you are interested in downloading the flyer, CLICK HERE.

Thank you to everyone who helped me through this process, my family, friends, editors, twitter, etc! My two goals in life as a child were to become an archaeologist and to publish books. I always assumed that my first published book would be a novel, but I think academic books also check that box off (don’t worry, novel(s) are in the works)! The archaeology part has been covered for a while!

Citation:

Lacy, Robyn S. 2020. Burial and Death in Colonial North America: Exploring Interment Practices and Landscapes in 17th-Century British Settlement. Emerald Publishing Ltd.: Bingley, UK.


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In Conversation: Questions in Mortuary Archaeology

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Working at Woodland Cemetery to repair a complex marble monument (photo by Brienna French 2019)

Yesterday I had a the pleasure of answering a few questions about my research and work from Dr. Shawn Graham of Carlton University (@electricarchaeo on twitter), for his fall course, ‘Digital History and Digital Archaeology’. Now, I don’t really do digital archaeology, but the questions could be answered focusing on anyone’s specialities. I wanted to share the discussion with all of you! (these answers aren’t work-for-word my short interview answers, but pretty close!)

1. Who are you and what are you currently working on?
Hi everyone! My name is Robyn Lacy, and I’m a historical archaeologist. I work for a cultural resource management (CRM) firm in Ontario, where I am an archaeological, cultural heritage, and social media technician. I’ve been doing this job since early winter, but I’ll be starting my PhD in Historic Archaeology at Memorial University of Newfoundland (remotely at first)! I’m also finishing up my first book which is based on my Master’s research in 17th-century British burial landscapes in North America, and starting research on my second book as well. Exciting stuff!

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Return to the Rock: PhD Research Outline!

Hi friends, it’s been too long since I’ve written a post! Hope everyone is washing their hands and staying out of large gatherings during this ol’ covid-19 outbreak we’re all dealing with. Also you don’t need that much tp, friends. Ok, since coming back from Boston in January, I’ve started a new position with a local CRM firm, TMHC, as their archaeological, cultural heritage, and social media technician! It’s been amazing so far, and I can’t wait for the field season to start! If you follow me on social media though (or, you know, read the title of this post) then you’ll know I’ve had another big thing happen in the last few months…I’ve been accepted into Memorial University of Newfoundland’s PhD program for Archaeology, which starts Sept 2020!

Yay!!

I decided I wanted to do a PhD because my favourite part of archaeology besides the excavation is the research & the writing. I really love writing up results, explaining the thoughts behind doing specific things, digging into the backgrounds, and learning about how people operated in the past. Since finishing my MA in 2017, I’ve been continuing my research and writing on my own time, published 2 papers, have been working on a manuscript, and have another project up my sleeves, along with giving some public talks and stuff….and that takes a lot of time! What better way to balance all this free work than diving back into a PhD where all this research I’m already doing can move to the forefront of my priorities? I’m really excited to focus more of my energy on this research.

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The author with a cemetery sign, 2018.

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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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Brick Street Cemetery Stories: Quaker Stones & Attempted Murder

Hi all, can you believe it’s already nearly the middle of August? I can’t! It feels like just yesterday that I was starting my work at Woodland Cemetery. Tragically, that contract has ended, and I am working for another local historic cemetery for the next month or so, combing through their archival materials to create a book manuscript about the background of the site, their significant people and stories, and transcriptions of the gravestones themselves. Keep your eyes peeled, folks. It promises to be an interesting project!

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Gravestone Conservation: Week 7

My goodness, what a whirlwind these past 7 weeks have been! With only one week to go, I can’t believe I’m nearly finished with these weekly(ish) blog updates of my training and work as a gravestone conservator. Here we go people, I can fix gravestones and know more about stone than I did two months ago! Does anyone want me to talk about stones forever…because too late, I’m never going to stop!

It was an exciting and productive week at the cemetery, so lets dive in! It was only a four-day week because last Monday was Canada Day, so I’m pretty impressed with all the things we got done.

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Meagan & Thomas, archivist/historians, preparing for the July 6 tours.

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Gravestone Conservation 2019: Week 4

If you’ve been following my work for a little while you’ll know that I like to chronicle my fieldwork experiences when possible! I’m just here assuming that everyone is enjoying these, because there are 4 more weeks to go!

I can’t believe that it has already been 4 weeks, and that this experience is already halfway finished! I’m going to take what I’ve learned at the cemetery with me as I continue my burial ground research and work in the future.

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Gravestone Conservation 2019: Week 3

Goodness it’s been a busy week, and I’ve learned so much! We took on some cool repairs, cleaned some neat stones, and answered some questions from the public along the way too! It was a pretty good time overall, and I can’t believe we are nearly halfway through the program (thank you to Canada Summer Jobs program to opening your funding up to young people who aren’t going back to school this fall, me and everyone else really appreciate it!!).

There are a few new posts from the last week over at the Woodland Cemetery history blog, about children’s gravestones and our first ‘solo expedition‘ setting a broken gravestone! But it’s time for a review of the entire week, lets get into it!

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Gravestone Conservation 2019: Week 1

Hello friends, today I’d like to tell you about the first week at my new spring/summer job. I was overjoyed to have recently been hired for a short-term contract at Woodland Cemetery as a Monument Conservator! The job is funded through Canada Summer Jobs program (which isn’t just for students, folks!), so thank you to that wonderful funding that is allowing me to spend eight weeks training to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while…restore and conserve historic burial markers. I feel like I’m living in a burial archaeology dream world right now!

If you want to follow along with the cemetery’s heritage blog, check it out HERE!

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