Preserving Grave Markers
in Historic Cemeteries
Mary F. Striegel, Frances Gale, Jason Church and Debbie Dietrich-Smith
Cemeteries found across the country are not only places of burial, but they also provide a vivid record of community history. Whether large or small, well maintained or neglected, historic cemeteries are an important part of our cultural landscape. The vast richness of expression through form, decoration and materials informs our understanding of the individuals buried in historic cemeteries and their cultural significance.
While cemeteries are often considered to be perpetual, their most prominent feature—the grave markers—are not. They weather, naturally decay, often are poorly maintained and repaired and, on occasion, are vandalized. Grave markers are usually noteworthy not only for their inscriptions but also for their craftsmanship. Exceptional markers are considered works of art.
This Preservation Brief focuses on a single aspect of historic cemetery preservation—providing guidance for owners, property managers, administrators, in-house maintenance staff, volunteers, and others who are responsible for or are interested in preserving and protecting grave markers. Besides describing grave marker materials and the risk factors that contribute to their decay, the Brief provides guidance for assessing their conditions and discusses maintenance programs and various preservation treatments.