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The Old Burying Ground

Activities

Activities if you can visit the Old Burying Ground in person

The Old Burying Ground is easy to find in downtown Victoria. It is readily accessible by public transit and lots of parking is available nearby for those bringing a car. For groups arriving by private bus, the easiest drop off and pick up point is on Meares Street, beside the Old Burying Ground. Meares Street is a relatively quiet one-way street of mixed residential and business activities. Please obey parking restrictions.

Print off the walking tour map and notes on the website, or obtain a free copy of the printed walking tour brochure from the Old Cemeteries Society.

  • Take a self-guided tour on your own.
  • Use the information to prepare a tour for your group.
  • As an interactive activity for an entire school class, assign one or two stops on the tour to individual students or teams of them. The information in the brochure is basic, but additional information and photographs about many of the people buried at the Old Burying Ground is available on the Internet, published histories or the BC Archives website.
  • As a variation of a tour, develop dramatic vignettes about some of the important people buried at the Old Burying Ground and act out the vignettes in costume at the graves.

Take your camera to the Old Burying Ground and develop your own photo essay based on a wide range of possible topics:

  • Architecturally interesting monuments
  • Symbolism
  • Historical people
  • Vandalism and erosion
  • Aesthetically pleasing views
  • Scary views
  • Inappropriate activities (such as grafitti, garbage, drug use)

Note: Gravestone rubbings are a popular activity in some cemeteries, but the monuments at the Old Burying Ground are mostly made of soft sandstone that can easily be damaged. Please do not do rubbings of the tombstones, but take photographs or make sketches instead.

Make a map of the monuments, trees and pathways at the Old Burying Ground, or one section of it. This is an ideal project for applying measuring and scale drawing skills. As a variation of map making, use GPS coordinates.


Activities you can do even if you don’t visit the Old Burying Ground in person

Prepare an in-class presentation or vignettes about the people buried at the Old Burying Ground, based on biographical information and photographs on the website, in addition to extra information available on the Internet and other resources.

Read the History of the Old Burying Ground and develop an assignment or project about some of the report’s controversial points. Projects can take many forms, such as essays, in-class presentations or debates. Possible topics include:

  • The controversy between the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Church over control of the Old Burying Ground in the 1860s.
  • The pros and cons of clearing away the old and broken tombstones and turning the cemetery into a park.

Use mock interviews with a student “reporter” and put someone involved in a controversial topic on the “hot seat.” Possible people to interview are:

  • the Catholic bishop.
  • a family member whose mother’s grave has been removed.
  • a City of Victoria official who approved the work of clearing the cemetery.
  • a descendant of a pioneer family whose family grave has been vandalized.
  • an advocate for urban green space.
  • a homeless person who uses the Old Burying Ground as a place to sleep.

Use the on-line database of burials to practise research skills or to prepare statistical reports, graphs and timelines. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Draw a graph showing how many burials per year are in the database.
  • What are the most common first names for men and women?
  • For the entries that include an obituary, what are the causes of death?
  • Take a sampling of data from one year and calculate the number of children under 16 who died.

If there is a small cemetery, or a portion of a larger cemetery, near your school or where you live, use it for activities. Here are some suggestions:

  • Find out how much information is available about it.
  • Where are the burial records?
  • Are they available on-line?
  • Has anyone every done a walking tour at the cemetery?
  • Develop a walking tour or a tour map.
  • Is there a book or website about the cemetery or people buried in it?
  • Catalogue or photograph the tombstones.
  • If a database doesn’t already exist, volunteer to create one.
  • Volunteer to help out with a local group that is already involved in the cemetery.