These last days of May and beginning days of June herald an end to our time here at the Congregation Emanu-El Cemetery. As was promised by Erin, this end has appeared overwhelmingly and suddenly. Too soon, in fact, for most of us who have spent and will be spending these last few days assembling our final assignments and adding the finishing touches to the monument reports we’ve been completing for the Synagogue. As well, for those of us who are sad to say goodbye.

This last week, in almost poetic fashion, began in much the same way as our course started a couple of weeks ago: under a torrential downpour of rain. And, again, our day in the cemetery on Tuesday (May 30th) was cut short by several hours because of the crazy weather. Luckily our class of troopers stuck it out for the morning hours to at least get some work done – hurriedly scribbling notes beneath propped-up umbrellas – while we mapped and measured our monuments for our mapping exercise and for our monument recording assignments.

A short meet up on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, to double-check our measurements. Photo by Emily K.

Some of us, however, were feeling the end-of-term pressure, and took that as a sign to do some much needed after hours work here in the Cemetery. The next morning (May 31st), several of us met again on location to gather some final measurements and double check our numbers so that we can begin the final write-ups of all our assignments. It is sad to say, but much of the remaining work to be done is homework, to be completed away from the beautiful scenery and peacefulness of the Cemetery.

Julius Mitchel, one of my pioneers, has almost completely lost his inscription, necessitating 3D image modelling to recover lost text. Image by Emily K. 

Even as I type this, I am patiently awaiting the final render of my 3D monument photogrammetry image to finish so that I can translate the mostly disappeared Hebrew and English inscriptions. Hopefully, it turns out something like this. Until then, I’ve sated my anticipation by writing this blog post and beginning drawing my maps. Although, I cannot say it is a wholly simple task, as trying to decipher my own rushed writing from water-dappled paper has become a challenge in and of itself.

From water-dappled field notes to crisp final copy (unfinished).Photo by Emily K.

Typing this has also caused me to reflect a lot on my time at the Cemetery, and what comes next after such an experience. For me, this was my first time working in the field and actually experiencing what it is like being an archaeologist. If there were any doubts about it in my mind before they have now been thoroughly silenced. Throughout all of it, the good and the challenging (i.e. the cold and rain that no amount of layers could save me from), there was not a day that went by that I was not absolutely in love with the work we were doing here. Not only have I been able to experience something I am passionate about, but in doing so our class has been able to provide the Jewish Community here in Victoria with many records and documentation on their history in this city, and information about their deceased loved ones.

As a result, our work, such as the Pioneer Research Project, for the Synagogue has been a fulfilling task. However, a month is too short a time to get to know somebody, let alone someone’s entire life full of memories just like you or I. As a result, many of us have become invested in the Cemetery and the people resting within its gates. Hopefully, this is not the end for my part in this project, and I will be anticipating future volunteer opportunities. Until then, I, as are my classmates, am exceptionally thankful to have been a part of this unforgettable project at the Congregation Emanu-El Cemetery, here in Victoria, BC.