It’s week 7 now and we’ve got to finalise our ideas and approaches to the Map of Me project. I’ve been doing loads of research for mine as I will be focusing my final major project around a very similar topic and using some of the work for this one and I am very excited!When we first got the project brief, it was honestly very confusing – a map is such a broad subject when you can map out anything you want. I couldn’t come up with a good enough idea to set in motion; I had thought about possibly making some sort of a phone game app, perhaps a survival in London type of adventure, but after having a discussion with Ricardo and some other students, I decided against it and went for my other idea: London cemeteries.
That might sound a bit grim, but it’s actually a very interesting subject. Cemeteries in London (and the UK in general) are very different to ones in Lithuania. Small ones, big ones, free to enter and ticketed ones, ones in churchyards, ones in the middle of nowhere and so on. London has vast history as a city, and therefore so do the cemeteries in London. I’ve done a lot of research about them and found some really curious bits of information, such as on this website, a whole section dedicated to a book called “From Beyond the Grave”, they talk a lot about the history of cemeteries, saying that essentially the garden cemeteries we have now, came not because of aesthetical want, but rather a need to eliminate possibilities of spreading diseases due to overcrowding in old churchyard cemeteries. Through that, I went on looking for some of the more interesting cemeteries in London and came upon the Magnificent Seven, seven cemeteries around London that were established to deal with overcrowding of the deceased. These were all opened at around roughly the same time (Kensal Green in 1832 as the first one and Tower Hamlets in 1841 as the last of the seven). They are all beautiful, eerie places that have now mostly been turned into national nature reserves and and only West Norwood cemetery still cremates people and it’s possible to have a burial there if you’ve got a family plot there – the rest do not function as active burial sites anymore.
Each one of these seven cemeteries have a list of notable burials, ranging anywhere from people who served in the army to world explorers, politicians, artists and their muses and so on. They are filled with amazing monuments, architecture and design. With this project, I want to explore mapping out these cemeteries and locating on these maps where some of the notable burials and bits of architecture are located for other people who share an interest in history and cemeteries by turning into an interactive map in which you can view not just the placement of important graves, but also read bits of the history about each place, gathering information about the oldest and newest sites on each of the cemeteries. The point of this is not to just map out the notable graves (there’s usually at least SOME sort of pointer in these cemeteries telling you where to go to find these graves), but also to explore the art of headstones throughout the ages and include some of the “lore” about “supernatural” forces and beings that are said to reside in these old places.
This will feed into my final major project, because in it I want to explore not just the art/design part of these sad places, but also the anthropological side – how do people now and how did they use to deal with death and loss? Why does the vast majority of the population have death anxiety, what is death anxiety to begin with, and why is death so terrifying?
So aside from all the reading I’ve done so far, my aim is to visit each of these cemeteries and gather information as well as photographs, sketches and maps produced by the organisation(s) that run these places, as I want it to be as wholesome as possible even if it’s just a prototype.