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Preserving Grave Markers in Historic Cemeteries (Preservation Brief #48)

Cameo image of a soldier with an American flag flying over him.
Cameo image from Elmwood Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee, a fired ceramic that is set in the marble grave marker.

Mary Striegel, National Park Service

The National Park Service released its latest preservation brief that focuses on the care and preservation of historic cemetery grave markers. Cemeteries across the nation reflect the customs and values of the community. As in past eras, people desire a way to show respect by caring for cemeteries.

From rural graveyards to expansive urban cemeteries, there is a need for information on the best practices to preserve grave markers. NPS Preservation Brief #48, Preserving Grave Markers in Historic Cemeteries (PDF, 1.2MB), hopes to fill that need.

This brief provides guidance for owners, property managers, administrators, in-house maintenance staff, volunteers, and others in preserving and protecting grave markers.

The simple wooden clamp system allows two people to safety lift the marble grave marker.
Proper work practices and lifting techniques are illustrated in this photograph from a workshop in Silver Terrace Cemetery in Virginia City, Nevada. The simple wooden clamp system allows two people to safety lift the marble grave marker.

Jason Church, National Park Service

The brief describes grave marker materials and risk factors that contribute to their decay; provides guidance for assessing their conditions, and discusses maintenance programs and various preservation treatments.

The authors drew from a broad range of disciplines and backgrounds to write the brief.

  • Fran Gale is a conservation scientist and lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Jason Church is Chief of Technical Services and leading expert in cemetery preservation at NCPTT.
  • Debbie Smith is a landscape architect that specializes in the preservation of historic landscapes and heads up NCPTT’s Historic Landscapes Program.
  • Mary Striegel is a conservation scientist that leads NCPTT’s Materials Conservation Program.

To obtain hard copies of the brief Preserving Grave Markers in Historic Cemeteries, buy from the US Government Publishing Office.

You may also download Preserving Grave Markers in Historic Cemeteries (PDF, 1.2MB) from Technical Preservation Services.

Last updated: October 27, 2021