Long enamored of old gravestones, Emily B. Stanback visited a small cemetery in Barlaston while conducting research at the Wedgwood Archive in July, 2012. Struck by the above gravestone, she took photographs of it and transcribed the epitaph:
Afflictions sore, some time I bore
Physicians were in vain,
Till god did please Death should me seize,
To ease me of my Pain.
Fascinated by the textual possibilities of the epitaph–and of gravestones in general–Emily began to talk to colleagues, prime among them Polly Rowena Atkin, who was also long enamored of old cemeteries. The two realized that a scholarly database of gravestones and epitaphs would be useful to academics and educators across disciplines, and could enable scholarly work concerning the information–historical, conceptual, cultural–contained on gravestones.
After key conversations with Will Smith, Suzanne Webster, Nicholas Roe, Alan Vardy, and others, the project began to take shape. Although in its nascent stages, we hope to build this database as an open source of information and media for use by scholars, teachers, and fellow graveyard enthusiasts.
The project curators hope that this site will prove immediately valuable to educators and scholars at all levels. Classroom teachers may find it useful, for example, to have images of the graves of famous literary authors consolidated in one place. Art historians and historians of material culture may find it useful to have access to detailed and contextualized images of gravestone iconography. Literary scholars may find the epitaph transcriptions especially useful.
Once we have loaded a significant number of images and transcriptions onto this site, we intend to apply for funding that will allow us to enlist the assistance of programming professionals. Our goal is to tag existing and new data using a number of criteria (date, location, iconography, the terminology used in the epitaph, the topic of the epitaph, etc.). We hope to use this data to create Grave/Webs, which we envision as an interactive site that will allow scholars and educators to map historical and regional trends in epitaphs, iconography, and other features of gravestones.