Discovering England’s Burial Spaces (DEBS) is a Historic England funded project based at the University of York and the Archaeology Data Service. We are working with community groups to develop new tools for burial space research and dissemination.

Over eighteen months, we will be working with several groups and societies to design and test training and recording materials that can be used to record burial spaces like churchyards and cemeteries. We are creating a pilot national database for burial space research, so that groups conducting work at burial spaces can safeguard their research in perpetuity and share findings with other researchers.

The Burial Space Research Database will be created as a way to provide groups conducting research into burial spaces to share their findings and publish results, whilst also using standardised recording methodologies and vocabularies. This will mean that datasets being created by groups are interoperable and connections can be made between research projects.

Using a national system for recording burial spaces will enable groups involved in high quality research to publish findings in a recognised format. The Burial Space Research Database development will also support the creation of a new online form that can be used to add a record of research conducted to the national Online Index for Archaeological Investigations (OASIS). Using OASIS, heritage bodies and organisations that care for burial spaces, such as Historic Environment Record officers, will be able to see when work such as a survey of a cemetery has taken place. This will ensure that findings from community-led research will inform future development. The Burial Spaces Form will be designed in collaboration with the Archaeology Data Service to ensure the maximum uptake within the archaeology and heritage sectors.

The DEBS project runs from September 2017 to February 2019. Throughout this period, researchers from the University of York will work with six community groups to design and evaluate the usefulness of the resources created and to assess the potential for the new system to support work that groups (such as local archaeology and history societies, church history groups, and local photography clubs) are carrying out to improve understanding around burial spaces.

Read more about the project aims and objectives.