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Oct. 15, 2021 | Friday
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Museum's 10-part Cemetery Stories series goes online
The museum's popular cemetery tours go virtual starting Sept. 30. (File photo)

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum is bringing NOTL’s most loved historic characters online through its virtual Cemetery Stories, which will be offered in lieu of the annual theatrical cemetery tours this year.

The ongoing physical distancing measures of the COVID-19 pandemic forced museum staff to think outside the box in terms of programming this fall, and long-time volunteer and actor Judy Thornton proposed taking the series online.

“I was really quite disappointed when I knew that it wasn't going to work for us this year … I said, 'Do you think there is some way we can do this as a virtual tour instead,' ” Thornton said.

Museum managing director Sarah Kaufman thought it was a great idea and things "just kind of evolved from there.”

The series features 10 stories filmed in five-minute segments and the first will be released via YouTube on Sept. 30.

“We’re doing some of our favourites from the past and some favourites that people would love,” said Babs Worthy, director of the virtual tour series. “Some of the colourful characters from past.”

“I take a little dramatic licence at times, but it’s all based on facts,” she said.

Converting the theatrical tour, which has been running for the past eight years, into quick, informative and entertaining video segments was challenging, she said. “But it’s exciting.”

The museum’s director of finance and marketing, Amy Klassen, said she was worried about how to present the annual cemetery tours during the pandemic.

“We thought offering a virtual experience would be best,” she said. “This format also means that we will have the recordings available for years to come.”

Extensive research goes into planning the subjects and scripts for the series. Worthy said she consults with historian Donald Combe from St. Mark’s Anglican Church and research files to find “people of interest.”

“It’s not just about famous and infamous people but the little-known people, people that you would never think of. The women, for example, are often missed in history,” Worthy said.

The depth and humour in the characters is what keeps Thornton coming back, eager to play the roles each year, she said.

For the virtual Cemetery Stories, she said she will be revisiting the character Dorothy Carnathan, who is buried in a large mausoleum in St. Mark's cemetery.

“I love this character. She kind of strikes me as not quite sure what's happening in the world around her. I think she's a fun character,” she said.

“She was my choice to bring to the virtual tour this year because she's quite funny and I enjoy doing characters like that.”

Worthy said the volunteers contribute a “huge amount” of time and effort while forming the scripts.

“They feel, I hope, a lot of ownership over the whole project. And we work together,” Worthy said.

“They always have something they want to say or change and that makes it very exciting for me. It means they’re really committed and I love that,” she said.

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