Monday, September 10, 2007

Grave Transcribing—Urban Archaeology At Its Best
Reed and a team of Toronto Branch volunteers are currently working on the 89,000 graves located in St. James cemetery in Cabbagetown. After six years labouring, the hardworking group has managed to transcribe half of the cemetery—but it is clear these urban archaeologists have their work cut out for them.

Working in bi-weekly shifts from April to October, Toronto Branch volunteers work from a record of the cemetery’s plots which provides a sense of who was buried when and where. However, despite having this rough guide with them, stones are often difficult to find or missing entirely.

Surprisingly, the hardest part of the job is not in the transcribing but “finding one that’s deep and digging it the heck out!” Reed says. For this physical hurdle, OGS volunteers depend on a host of tools to help them including heavy duty probes, edgers, spades, and trowels.

More cemetery archaeology! I've wondered about this while wandering a cemetery nearby: there are a lot of older stones that are barely legible now and in another hundred years will no doubt be completely barren of text. Trouble is, there's probably little money in it.