Decorating the Dead: Coffin Hardware and the Farewell Cemetery
Presented by Laura Suchan and Melissa Cole, Oshawa Museum
I am pleased to be presenting at the upcoming Oshawa Historical Society Speaker Series on October 19 at 7 pm. The event is online and a registration link is included below.
The Farewell Cemetery Coffin Hardware Collection, housed at the Oshawa Museum, offers a unique opportunity to study the intersection of iconography, rituals and status in 19th century society. The Coffin Hardware Collection was uncovered in 1992 during road expansion, when unauthorized burials were discovered in the construction path. These burials were located outside the perimeter of the nearby 19th century Farewell Cemetery, home to some of the earliest settlers in Oshawa, Ontario. Archaeologists successfully re-located a total of 36 graves within the cemetery perimeter and the coffin hardware was placed at the Oshawa Museum.
This presentation will examine the different styles of 19th century coffin hardware and its similarities to gravestone adornment and the use of coffin decorations as an indicator of social status.
Melissa Cole was born and raised in Oshawa. She has worked at the Oshawa Museum for 20 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Anthropology from Trent University and a Museum Management and Curatorship certificate from Fleming College.
Melissa cares for the extensive artifact collection held at the Oshawa Museum. Her position involves research and the communication of research findings in exhibits and audio/visual scripts, reports, articles or books. Melissa is also responsible for the design and overseeing the construction, fabrication, installation and maintenance of exhibits. She is passionate about her hometown heritage and challenging the traditional story and history of Oshawa.
Laura Suchan is the Executive Director of the Oshawa Museum, a museum dedicated to the preservation of Oshawa’s history. Laura’s passion for public history has led to conference presentations at provincial, national and international conferences including the Ontario Museum Association, History of Education Society, and the Association for Gravestone Studies.
In 2005, Laura developed a classification system for 19th century Ontario gravestones which allowed for a more systematic approach to the transcription and preservation of gravestones. This work led to the publication of her first book, Memento Mori: Classifying Nineteenth Century Ontario Gravestones in 2009 . An article based on this research was awarded the Doug Grandy Award for the best article published that year by the Durham Region Chapter of the Ontario Genealogical Society in 2010.
She currently contributes her time to several committees including the Ontario Historical Society, Cemeteries Committee , and the Women’s Herstory Connection of Durham Region.