Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis explores the relationship between landscape and experience in understanding the historical trajectory of cemeteries, their ongoing role in living communities and their contribution to heritage and memory. It constructs a phenomenological history of Hamilton Cemetery, established in 1848 in Hamilton, Ontario, using a combination of material, archival and ethnographic research, in addition to visual media and statistical analyses. In tracing the physical transformations of this cemetery, as a result of fluctuating levels of maintenance, neglect and destruction, it is evident that cemeteries are implicated in the social processes constructing attitudes towards death, the dead, memory and the past.
This thesis will explore Hamilton Cemetery’s past to examine the role of commemorative activities, grave visitation, vandalism, recreational activities and heritage. The period from 1848-1950 was one of active use and maintenance of the cemetery landscape, with the frequency and recentness of burial dictating a high level of reverence and maintenance. Between 1950 and 1990, treatment of the cemetery is better characterized by the emergence of vandalism, limited use of the space, and increasing cumulative decay. Finally, from 1990 to the present there has been a resurgence of interest in the cemetery and a transition back into active management and maintenance recognizing its value to local heritage and ecology.
From their emergence as pragmatic, formalized social spaces constructed for the dead, to the saturation of the medium and a demographic shift resulting in neglect, to revitalization as a heritage-based collective past, cemeteries represent dynamic components of the landscape.
Cook, Katherine R., "Deathscapes: Memory, Heritage and Place in Cemetery" (2011). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5914.
McMaster University Library