Monday, February 4, 2013

Digital Cemetery Headstone Recording

“There is no better place to stand face-to-face with the past than in the old burying grounds . . .” 
James Deetz 1996

My Anthropology 355 class (Historical Archaeology and the Origins of the Modern Pacific Northwest) will help me to test the use of digital recording forms, compiling data from cemetery headstones previously recorded in Vancouver, Washington by the 2011 and 2012 field schools.  

Field school students recording gravestones at
the Old City Cemetery in Vancouver, Washington
The Old City Cemetery (45CL887) in Vancouver, Washington, represents one of the oldest cemeteries in the City.  It was established in July 1867, and is directly tied to Fort Vancouver though the Hudson’s Bay Company Cemetery (the first colonial cemetery in the City) and the U.S. Army Post Cemetery, the latter of  which allowed civilian burials to be interred in it until July 1, 1867. The Old City Cemetery contains many of the early historical figures of the City, like Ester Short, who filed the town plat for Vancouver, Washington;  Charles Slocum, a local businessman who helped to lay out Boise, Idaho; and even former Hudson’s Bay employees, like Joseph Petrain, the baker at Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Vancouver.  The headstones of the Old City Cemetery reflect the changing styles of the mid-19th and early 20th century.  The cemetery has been subject to recent vandalism, and the field school project is designed to collect baseline information on headstone condition while collecting data on the forms, decorations, and inscriptions of the headstones.

In the summers of 2011 and 2012, archaeological field school students from Portland State University and Washington State University Vancouver recorded headstones from the eastern half (southeast and northeast quadrants) of the cemetery.  The Clark County Geneological Society has been repairing some of the damaged headstones and has collected a prodigious amount of geneological information on the cemetery: Other groups have also taken an interest in preserving and protecting the cemetery, including Project Youth.

As part of the their assignment to explore patterns in cemetery headstones through time and across space, groups of students in my winter term class will use a new digital form to input data previously collected by the field school students on cemetery headstones.  Not only will this give them a feel for historical archaeology data collection, but also test the form for eventual use in the field.  

1 comment:

  1. nice post very informative i like heading “There is no better place to stand face-to-face with the past than in the old burying grounds . . .”