Blog Post

Maintaining Memory: Deux Rivieres, a Town That No Longer Exists

In a sense, the town still exists. There are a few houses, a lodge, and a cemetery on a hill. Below is a close water line. I have written before about Deux Rivieres, Ontario. My family once lived there. It now sits underneath a Highway 17 overpass. Right below the overpass, on a small hill overlooking the water is a cemetery. The headstones still stand, yet they are eroding - succumbing to the elements. In a matter of years, who knows what will become of the cemetery.

I began this project by wanting to digitally document the headstones in the cemetery. After some research and help from familiy members I already found attempts by others to do so. This website contains the photos of many of the headstones at the Deux Rivieres cemetery. I also found a website of sources (mainly newspaper clippings) - one about the town's relocation - which can help my research. I also have family members to contact to get more information about the town. However, as I wrote on the blog for this project, although the preservation of the cemetery remains an endeavour of my research, I am interested in memory of place and space. How will I begin this research though? How will I bring the memory of this town into the digital age.

It is great to see the digital preservation by way of photograph already underway by other historians/preservationists. However, with advice, help, and information from my professor, Dr. Shawn Graham, I will now take the preservation a step further. I wish to created an online digital exhibit on Omeka. The blog remains the primary source of document collection, explanation, updates, etc., yet I want Omeka to aid in expanding this project. Next, I want to recreate the cemetary (and, later, possibly the town) as a 3D model. Using Augment, I will recreate the cemetery and its headstones. My hope is that I can have a functioning 3D model of the entire town linked to a map, possibly Google Maps for ease of access.

Deux Rivieres is far from where I am and only really accessible if I had a personal vehicle, which I lack. This winter break, however, I was able to drive to Deux Rivieres. This is where I learned two things: (1) field work is incredibly difficult pending the weather and (2) field work is incredibly fun. I parked at the bottom of the cemetery and, with the help of my brother, took photos of the headstones. This was a very difficult task. We trudged through over a foot of snow that had accumulated and in freezing temperature we dug out out each headstone from the snow and took photos of the entire stone which I can hopefully use in Augment. I took several videos too, primarily on my methodology but also about the memory of the town. I realized that several tombstones were simple slates stuck in the ground. I found as many as I could and photographed them. It was diificult in the snow and cold to do it and I will probably have to return in the summer to get better photos, however the current ones will hopefully suffice.

By the end of the day my feet were wet and numb from the cold. However, it really was a great day and I learned a lot about field work, specifically my amazement at how I could do all of my field work with my smartphone. Lastly, I saw the poor condition many of the inscriptions were in. This is the problem. The stone will last a very long time. Yet the inscriptions quickly fade.

However this turns out, I keep in the back of my mind what a fellow HASTACer once told me about supposedly 'failed' research: there is signal in the noise. We can always not only adapt our research but also find importance in what we could not do.


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