By Nicole Findlay
Bradley Armishaw received an unusual award last Friday afternoon. The Beechwood Cemetery and Foundation presented Armishaw, BA/09, with its first Beechwood Cemetery Prize in recognition of a paper he had written as a fourth-year student in the Department of History.
Armishaw researched and wrote the essay for Department of History professor Bruce Elliott’s fourth-year seminar course, Gravestones and Cemeteries: Cultures of death and memorialization. In his essay, Hutterite Grave Markers, Armishaw ventured into previously unexplored territory. Pursuing a personal interest in Hutterian history and culture, Armishaw decided to expand on his previous historic-geographic research. He decided to focus on Hutterite grave makers.
Armishaw photographed four Hutterite cemeteries, and then proceeded to analyze the individual markers’ characteristics. These included fonts, the marker style and colour, and the language and inscriptions used. He also went to the source.
“I interviewed a Hutterite gravestone carver from Elie, MB to gain a better idea of the culture behind the practices and his own place in the history of Hutterite grave marking,” said Armishaw.
“What’s fascinating about it is that he made his own sandblast equipment from found parts!” Elliott commented.
The result was a 10,000 word essay that illustrated the unique memorial practices of Hutterite communities. Among the findings is the prevalent role of women play. Traditionally gravestone carvers are women. Another note of interest is the way in which the dead are buried – following chronological order rather than in family plots. Hutterite gravestones and commemorative practices are an amalgam of the traditional and the modern.
Grete Hale, chair of the Beechwood Cemetery and Foundation, presented the $500 award for what she referred to as an “incredible piece of research” at the first of the Shannon Lectures. She also commented on “cooperative relationship” between Beechwood and Carleton University, stating “I think it’s going to grow and flourish.”