Momento Mori: Classifying Nineteenth Century Ontario Gravestones
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What is your book about?
Ontario gravestone iconography exhibits a remarkable progression of artistic, cultural and religious expression throughout the nineteenth century. Unfortunately the study of gravestone motifs has been largely ignored by those transcribing data in Ontario’s early cemeteries. It is imperative this information, along with motifs, be recorded before it is lost to us. Gravestone iconography can be organized into simple stylistic categories which would allow for a standardized approach when recording gravestone information. Much of Ontario’s gravestone research is done by local genealogical and historical societies working in isolation. Sharing gravestone data using a common classification system would aid in developing perspectives into topics such as carving traditions, economic status and gravestone choice across local and regional lines. This information would shed light on the entire gravestone industry and provide researchers with the background necessary to study motifs more closely.
What inspired you to write your book?
Cemeteries and the stories they shelter are a research interest of mine. I particularly enjoy the art and iconography portrayed on gravestones. I wanted to find a way to simplify the methodology of recording historic gravestone information before the information is lost.
What is a typical day like for you?
I work full time as the Director of the Oshawa Museum in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Before heading off to work I like to get in a short yoga practice to help get my day started on the right track. Work is busy and my days are full of financial reports, strategic planning and policy development. After work I will spend time with my husband, who like me, has many different projects on the go. Currently we are writing a historical true crime book together so many of our evenings are spent conducting research or writing. We are both home bodies so if we are not travelling somewhere to take in the cultural and historical landscapes, you will most likely find us at home.
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
I love my job because it everyday offers something new and exciting. I’ve worked here for over 30 years and I still get chills when I am able to hold in my hand a letter written by Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. I work with a great team and we are all passionate about local history and making sure we are presenting it in an engaging and inclusive manner.
What are some favorite books you’d recommend to our readers?
I read mostly non-fiction and particularly enjoy any book that features history. I recently read East West Street by Philippe Sands which partly about the legal minds who introduced genocide and crimes against humanity but it is also a memoir of Sands’ maternal grandfather. This is the book I want to write about my grandfather and ow he survived WWII. Another book I always recommend is Quiet by Susan Cain. Cain’s look at introverts and functioning in an extrovert world changed by life and made me realize how much energy it takes for me to function as an extrovert.. Building in recovery time has become an important aspect of my self care routine.
What advice do you have to offer our readers?
I think the best advice I could give is to be curious. My curiosity has lead me on incredible adventures and influenced all aspects of my life. Canadian author Danielle LaPorte said “Your curiosity is your growth point always.” I have allowed my curiosity to be guiding light for many things and it has always lead me to some form of growth and fulfillment.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
People are often surprised to find out I m a huge fan of heavy metal and that I once worked as an autopsy assistant.
What’s next for you?
My husband and I will complete our historical true crime book this year.
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