In popular culture, cemeteries have something of a bad reputation, considered by many to be sad or creepy on their best day, and downright haunted on their worst. But this is by no means a complete or accurate view; they also can be beautiful, peaceful, historic, and educational.
Overall, cemeteries need to be well-researched and preserved so they can tell us more about how people in the past viewed death and burial. This toolkit is designed to help you start researching cemeteries; you can find more information on how to save them in our publication Preservation of Historic Burial Grounds.
Please note: In this post we’ve focused on 17th - 19th century burial grounds -- essentially non-modern churchyards, cemeteries, and family plots. A future toolkit will take on prehistoric and Native American sacred and burial sites.
1. Be sensitive. If there is a golden rule to the preservation of cemeteries and burial grounds, it is to be aware that our diverse country is home to a wide variety of burial customs. Take into account cultural sensitivities when working above-ground, and employ only professional, trained archaeologists for below-ground research.
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.
Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class.