I had the opportunity of visiting Highgate Cemetery the other week and though I’d share a few thoughts and photos from it.
Myself and some other classmates from #citylis explored the East cemetery on a suitably sunny morning, visiting the graves of a myriad of notable historical figures, some perhaps more well known and obvious than others.
The most famous resident(if that is the appropriate term) must surely be Karl Marx, certainly he has the largest grave (in fact he has two, although I only found the more obvious one), however there are many more significant and notable residents which may pique your interests.
One good example might be the writer Douglas Adams, who as you may or may not know wrote that “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42″ in the now famous Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
For a more Library related entry perhaps we should consider the grave of Sir Colin St John Wilson RA architect of the British Library at St Pancras.
So far I have mentioned three people out of a total of 17,000, three graves out of 53,000 (source: http://highgatecemetery.org/), if we begin to look at Highgate as an archive that’s a minimum of 17,000 records, 1 per person. Each person is resident in 1 grave (with the possible exception of Marx) and for each person in the cemetery we will have a minimum of the following information:
Date of Birth
Date of Death
If we imagine our Cemetery as an archive we need access points, we could start with surname, this would be of genealogical value, or if you are perhaps are looking for a list of burials from a particular year, but we can expand our records further by information about the occupant, some of which which can then form the basis of classification scheme.
Gender maybe one scheme of classification which means we can add gender to the records of our occupant – we could create a separate table form gender and store it as a foreign key or lock up value in our main records table.
Occupation or Profession may be the next information to add to our records, this is certainly known for many of the notable residents, and indeed Highgate Cemetery website provides the following categories for listing the more notable occupants:
Art and design
Politics philosophy and public life
Science technology and nature
Theatre, film and television
Within a category such as Art and Design we find notable Painters, Designers, and Architects. The Commerce category includes confectioners, instrument makers and inventors. The definitions for categories are quite broad so it would be possible to subdivide them further, for example science might have sub categories for Mathematicians, Chemists, and Natural Science.
There are some other ways in which we could classify the Cemetery, which is too look at the graves rather than the occupants as a subject for classification.
We could look at a classification by materials:
We could consider occupancy:
Furthermore we could classify by design:
Horizontal / vertical
However, we choose to classify we have still barely scratched the surface of finding out about the lives, and deaths of the many occupants of Highgate Cemetery. Last of all I want to pose the question of maintenance and care, for if we treat Highgate as an archive and the graves as the collection, what happens to those graves that are overgrown and broken? For it is not so much the famous and well known residents that we should be concerned with, but those of the ordinary men and women who now reside within Highgate. What do we know about those whose graves are overgrown, broken and neglected and how can we preserve the information that is marked upon their gravestones?
#Citylis student, Librarian and comics reader and otaku.
Currently studying for a MA Library Science at City, University London. .
I have a background of working in Academic Libraries. I joined Croydon College Library as a Learning Resources Assistant in 2001 and held many different titles until I was made redundant in late 2014. After a brief stint working as Library Assistant for King's College London, I am now working as Information Resources Adminstrator for St Mary's University.
I have a BA in History and Classics, am ACLIP Certified, experienced in Cataloguing and Classification (MARC21 and DDC) and also a qualified teacher in the FE Sector (Cert Ed).
I have a background of working with eResources and Library systems and am interested these areas as well as the impact of technology on learning and Libraries.
In my spare time I’m holding down the demanding job of father to two demanding children Emily and Ruby, but when I do get free time I like reading Manga (Naruto, Bleach, Dragonball, One Punch Man to name a few) and watching Anime. I love Star Trek and Star Wars although I decline to choose one over the other.
You can find me on twitter @tashtom