Lower Burial Ground in Kingston Canada

The Lower Burial Ground was Kingston’s original burial ground first used in 1783. Over the past three months CSMO has been conserving and documenting the remaining 47 stones on the burial grounds in St. Paul’s church yard.

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RTI Capture at LBG / image CSMO

Aspects of the project were covered by  the Whig-Standar, CKWS TV and CBC radio:

Project identifies centuries-old graves

By Michael Lea, Kingston Whig-Standard

Friday, August 23, 2013 6:18:17 EDT PM

KINGSTON – The grave marker is a blank piece of stone, about one metre by two metres in size.

To the naked eye, its face is barren of any discernible features. If there had, indeed, been writing on it, the wind and the rain of two centuries had long since swept it away.

But 21st-century technology is restoring the identity of the grave’s occupant.

World-renowned conservator Alex Gabov will be spending a couple of weeks using a technique called reflectance transformation imaging to digitally restore the writing on dozens of headstones and grave markers on the grounds of St. Paul’s Anglican Church at the corner of Queen and Montreal streets.

It is the oldest consecrated Protestant cemetery west of Montreal. It was first laid out by Royal Engineers in 1783 to prepare for the influx of Loyalists.

The first people buried there, in 1785, were a couple of soldiers and a child. It served as the burial site for St. George’s Cathedral before the construction of St. Paul’s church.

The project is an effort of the Lower Burial Ground Restoration Society, which has spent the past five years trying to preserve and restore the urban cemetery.

Marianne Thompson, the society’s secretary-treasurer, said the work had a dramatic beginning in 2008.

“It started when we had that truck crash into our wall.”

An accident had damaged the church’s 1799 Rocheleau stone wall on Montreal Street and, although the wall was repaired, it began crumbling away again.

The rector at the time suggested a group be formed to restore the wall, so Thompson’s husband, Doug, formed the non-profit society and was named its president.

He called in “the heavyweights with interest in historical preservation and conservation,” said Marianne Thompson. Included in the membership were Peter Gower, Sue Bazely, Ed Grenda, John Grenville and Brian Osborne.

“We got them all.”

The project moved from simply restoring the wall to conserving all the graves in the plot, she said.

“It is too important to let that go. All the early citizens of Kingston were buried there, and so it is an important memorial to these founders of Kingston. It is also a unique type of cemetery. You won’t find anything else like that in an urban setting,” she explained.

They began with the Forsythe monument.

“The bishop at the time called it the most expensive doghouse in Kingston,” she laughed.

They also took on the Stuart Lair, burial site of Rev. John Stuart and his 11 family members.

“We’ve had a number of projects over the years and bit by bit we’re getting there.”

Gabov’s reflectance transformation imaging technique was developed about 12 years ago by a worker at Hewlett Packard.

He first used it in a pilot project at Cataraqui Cemetery.

A stationary camera is placed above the stone to be photographed, then a flash is circled around the grave, producing multiple images.

“In the computer software, we bring all the images (together),” explained Gabov. “It creates a 2-D representation of the 3-D surface. What it gives you is the ability to look at that surface and manipulate it in the computer, enhance it and actually see what the writing is.”

The large stone that was Gabov’s current focus was a typical example of the challenge he faced. But his laptop produced a graphic image of what the eye couldn’t see.

The grave held Col. F.S. Tidy, the commanding officer of the 24th Regiment of Foot. He had died in 1835.

“So once we have that information, we actually have a digital surrogate,” he said. “For us as conservators, that’s important because we document the condition. That will remain on record.”

The technique is very time-consuming but a lot cheaper than using 3-D laser scanning, which would require much more sophisticated equipment and a more powerful computer to handle the huge amount of data produced.

“If you have a camera and a flash, you can do it.”

Gabov also plans to make a list of what needs to be done to conserve the stones for future generations.

The funding for the restoration project at the cemetery has come from the Community Foundation and two private donors.

Story by Michael Lea

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RTI Capture at LBG / image CSMO

Followed by a TV spot by Darryn Davis of the CKWS Newswatch Kingston

HEADSTONES

KINGSTON’S LOWER BURIAL GROUND MAY BE ONE OF THE LIMESTONE CITY’S LEAST APPRECIATED BUT MOST IMPORTANT HISTORIC SITES.

– Newswatch Newsroom
8/27/2013

KINGSTON’S LOWER BURIAL GROUND MAY BE ONE OF THE LIMESTONE CITY’S LEAST APPRECIATED BUT MOST IMPORTANT HISTORIC SITES.

OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS THE LOWER BURIAL GROUND SOCIETY HAS SPEARHEADED A NUMBER OF PROJECTS AT THE SITE ON THE CORNER QUEEN AND MONTREAL STREETS.

THE GROUP IS NOW IN THE PROCESS OF RESTORING AND PRESERVING THE MANY HEADSTONES ON THE PROPERTY THAT DATE BACK TO THE 18TH AND 19TH CENTURIES.

NEWSWATCH’S DARRYN DAVIS HAS MORE….

These photo’s won’t be seen on the cover of Time magazine but that doesn’t make Alex Gabov’s work any less exciting.

Gabov has been recruited by the Lower Burial Ground Society to rediscover the inscriptions that have been lost due to weathering and time on the numerous headstones.

Work that wouldn’t be possible if not for the efforts of the not for profit Lower Burial Ground Society.

John Grenville/ Pres. Lower Burial Ground Society

“This is one of the earliest if not the earliest Anglican or protestant graveyards in Ontario. ”

Through a series of photographs and computer software Gabov and his team are able to recover parts of history that have been lost over the centuries.

But before this, a lot of preparation took place , from cleaning the headstones and monuments to looking at old plans of the cemetery grounds.

Alexander Gabov/ Art Conservator

“we have already found one or two stones which were never recorded at least not on the plans.”

“To the naked eye this old headstone is nothing more than a blank slate, but thanks to the work of Alex Gabov and his team we now know this is the final resting place of Colonel F.S. Tidy who died in 1835 at the age of sixty.” Using the software the inscription on the headstone becomes clear and easy to read.

Gabov is also documenting the current state of the headstones and creating a to do list for the Lower Burial ground society.

Alex Gabov

“An outline for the society, the need of conservation and also the sequence that they have to follow in order to properly preserve the monuments.”

Gabov says the final report will be ready later this fall.

Story by Darryn Davis CKWS Newswatch Kingston.

follow the link to watch the story:

http://www.ckwstv.com/news/kingston/story.aspx?ID=2031574

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RTI Capture at LBG / image CSMO

And finally the Sep 5 2013 piece by the charismatic JC Kenny on CBC radio. The podcast is available for download at iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/ontario-morning-from-cbc-radio/id447055175

We are in the final stages of completing this lengthily conservation and full documentation survey.

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