Gravestones come to life during cemetery lecture in Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH — The day was overcast and gray, but that didn’t deter the 30 to 35 people who showed up for Jacob Begin’s talk, “Stones that Speak,” at the Portsmouth Cemetery on Turnpike Avenue Saturday. 

Mr. Begin, an accomplished photographer and expert on Rhode Island gravestones, is a historic preservation specialist with the R.I. Department of Transportation and a former member of the Board of Directors at the Bristol Historical & Preservation Society. 

The event, sponsored by the Portsmouth Historical Society, was an outdoor lecture and workshop on the importance of preserving our local cemeteries and techniques for digitizing historic gravestones. 

While the weather ruled out Mr. Begin’s planned demonstration of using simple tools such as a digital camera, cell phone, mirror and an umbrella to take compelling images of gravestones, he provided key insights into what we can learn from cemeteries about local history and families.

You can view a video of the presentation here.

This was the first information session planned for Historical Society members and other local volunteers who are interested in assisting the Society and the town’s Planning Department in updating an inventory/catalog of cemeteries in Portsmouth in support of the town’s Comprehensive Community Plan. 

At the event, 27 people signed up to assist in this effort, which will begin this summer. Town Planner Gary Crosby, a member of the Historical Society Board of Directors, will be coordinating this project, assisted by other board members.

If you’d like to help out, contact the Portsmouth Historical Society at PHSinfo@portsmouthhistorical.org for more information.

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