[10 on Tuesday] How to Preserve Historic Cemeteries and Burial Grounds


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We've shared how to research the history of historic cemeteries and burial grounds (http://blog.preservationnation.org/2013/07/09/10-on-tuesday-10-tips-for-researching-historic-cemeteries-and-burial-grounds/).

Now it’s time to start saving them. Here are 10 critical steps for preserving historic burial grounds.


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[10 on Tuesday] How to Preserve Historic Cemeteries and Burial Grounds

  1. 1. Photo courtesy Sarah M. Heffern How to Preserve Historic Cemeteries and Burial Grounds
  2. 2. Cemeteries or burial grounds may be associated with a religious organization, located on private property (which the descendants of those buried there might still own), or under the control of a state or local government. In any event, it’s critical to get the owners on board early for the site’s restoration. 1. Determine -- and coordinate with -- the congregation, owners, or governing agency responsible for the land. Photo courtesy Elizabeth Thomsen, Flickr
  3. 3. A nonpartisan and nondenominational “friends” group can work as a neutral party in planning for the cemetery’s preservation and maintenance. In addition, a secular group could be eligible for state and federal funding from which a religious group might be exempt. 2. Start a support group. Photo courtesy Jamie Brandon, Flickr
  4. 4. Creativity is key, as there are not as many resources available for burial ground restoration as for other types of preservation projects. That said, their highly local nature makes them good projects for partnerships with historic societies or civic groups like the Junior League and Jaycees. 3. Look for funding -- and partners. Photo courtesy NCPTT Media, Flickr
  5. 5. It can be difficult to get a cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places unless it is part of a historically significant property or is in a historic district. However, getting listed on a state or local register is still beneficial, as it can make the site eligible for funding -- as well as offer recognition and prestige. 4. Pursue historic site designation. Photo courtesy Wally Gobetz, Flickr
  6. 6. Having volunteers with the necessary skills (including surveying and documentation, stone cleaning and resetting, and site maintenance) can be an critical cost-saving measure in a restoration process. The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training -- part of the National Park Service -- is a valuable resource for more information. 5. Arrange for training. Photo courtesy The U.S. Army, Flickr
  7. 7. Having accurate documentation of what is on the site is critically important to the preservation process, as it creates a record to work from in the future. The mapping and surveying process should include noting not only all the graves (marked and unmarked), but also pathways, walls and fences (both for the perimeter and enclosures), trees and other vegetation, and any other features or buildings. 6. Create a map and conduct surveys. Photo courtesy Monica Potter, Flickr
  8. 8. Before moving into the restoration process, it’s important to think about the future visitation level of the burial ground. Is it in an urban area and likely to get a lot of traffic? Or is it more rural and therefore less likely to have many people wandering through? If you expect heavier visitation, take that impact into account when planning. 7. Consider future uses. Photo courtesy David Berkowitz, Flickr
  9. 9. Loose or unbalanced markers can be a safety hazard for both restorers and people using the cemetery, so put stabilization at the top of the priority list. Likewise, address any landscape issues that could be dangerous, such as broken roads or crumbling retaining walls. After the safety issues are resolved, move on to fixes like iron- and stonework. 8. Prioritize! Photo courtesy Cindy Cornett Seigle, Flickr
  10. 10. Cemeteries and burial grounds require significant ongoing maintenance following the initial restoration. A groundskeeper can manage the routine landscape work, but should do so in a way that doesn’t damage or disturb the grave markers. In addition, all stones should be inspected periodically for wear-and-tear and be gently cleaned of debris. 9. Develop a maintenance plan. Photo courtesy NCPTT Media, Flickr
  11. 11. A few amenities such as trash cans and informational signs can go a long way in making a historic cemetery or burial ground welcoming. In addition, tourist- friendly activities such as tours can draw attention to the restoration work. 10. Make it visitor-friendly. Photo courtesy Sarah M. Heffern
  12. 12. Ten on Tuesday features ten preservation tips each week. For more tips, visit blog.PreservationNation.org.