Hi-tech plan to shed light on graves
A HISTORIC Scottish kirkyard is to have futuristic information screens installed to let visitors know about the great and good who are laid to rest there.
The plasma screens are part of a 300,000 facelift which would make Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh a valuable "educational resource" and a more illuminating experience for tourists.
The scheme, which is expected to be completed within five years, will allow visitors to learn more about well known figures buried in the city centre graveyard, including the architect William Adam, poet Allan Ramsay, geologist James Hutton, architect James Craig and the historian William Robertson.
As well as highlighting famous people such as the advocate, Sir George "bloody" Mackenzie, the hi-tech signs will also provide history and images of lesser-known people.
Although experts plan to preserve the graveyard’s authenticity, landscape architects have drawn up plans using modernist techniques in an effort to encourage more passers-by to visit.
The new designs for the six acre site, best-known for housing the remains of Greyfriars Bobby, the little dog who faithfully kept guard over his master’s grave, have been welcomed by tourism leaders.
The project, which includes a wildflower garden and community garden, is the result of the Greyfriars Landscape Art Prize, which was won recently by a group of six city landscape architecture students.
Jenny Cowan, 21, one of the design-winners from Edinburgh College of Art, said it would make the graveyard more interesting.
"You know the names, but don’t you often wonder what they did and what they looked like? There are a lot of amazing people buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard and we thought it would be invaluable for visitors to learn more about such historic figures.
"The plasma screens fit around the gravestone to show what they achieved in their lifetime and what they looked like."
The third year student, from Penicuik, said the plans would open up the secluded graveyard to passers-by.
"Hopefully with hi-tech lighting and some trees removed the area won’t be such a dark place."
The cemetery - which is owned by the city council but run by Greyfriars Kirkyard Trust - dates back to 1562 when Mary Queen of Scots granted the land to the town council for use as a burial ground.
Earlier this year a 1.1 million restoration project on the church within the grounds was completed after 16 months of work.
Marion Moffat, the trust’s project director, said: "Information is being lost as the graveyard stands just now because visitors are not aware of the people buried there.
"For example, there is an enormous monument in the graveyard to Elizabeth Paton, and I would just love to know who she was," she said.
"The judges thought the winning plans were a better change of use for the graveyard which hasn’t had any new burials since the 1860s."
Craig Marshall, church administrator at Greyfriars, welcomed the new facelift.
"The plasma screens are a great idea because people are always interested to know what people from the past looked like, he said.
"It is a fascinating kirkyard which has the finest collection of funereal monuments in Scotland. I am looking forward to the project."
An Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board spokeswoman said: "This latest announcement of further considerable investment in the kirkyard, following as it does the major restoration of the church, is welcome news and the plans sound wonderful.
"It is fair to say that many visitors to the kirkyard at the moment probably don’t get the full historical significance of the site and everything it includes, and these developments should go a long way to improving that situation."
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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