History Slam Episode 107: Heritage & Human Remains

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By Sean Graham

On October 1 at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, a private re-interment ceremony was held for human remains found in 2013 during the construction of the city’s new LRT. The construction project is going right through what used to be Barrack Hill Cemetery, which, before its closure in 1845, was the burial site for around 500 individuals. Despite efforts to relocate those people when the cemetery closed, remains have been found during major downtown construction projects over the past few years.

Once human remains are found, it begins an interesting heritage process. The first step is to ensure that no crime was committed. Once that has been done, then it’s a question of what to do. In this case, it was fortunate that the city is home to a host of historical and heritage resources that could collaborate and, ultimately, provide a new space for these remains.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with City of Ottawa archivist Paul Henry about the Barrack Hill Cemetery, the discovery of human remains during LRT construction, and the process of re-interring the remains. We also chat about the effort to identify the individuals, funeral practices before the Victorian age, and how spatial meaning is altered with changes to the physical landscape.

Sean Graham is an editor with Activehistory.ca and host/producer of the History Slam Podcast.

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