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  CMC 2003

Recognizing a growing national demand for training on the conservation of cemetery monuments, NCPTT organized last spring its first seminar and workshop on the conservation of gravestones and other monuments commonly found in cemeteries. NCPTT follows up this successful training effort with another seminar and workshop to be held May 3-6 in Washington D.C.

Last year, more than 60 participants from around the nation participated in the events held in Natchitoches, Louisiana, where NCPTT is headquartered. The participants represented a wide array of individuals involved in cemetery preservation, including cemetery association members, State Historic Preservation officers, national and state park employees, K-12 teachers who use cemeteries in their lessons, doctoral students conducting research in cemeteries, cemetery caretakers, monument builders, and family cemetery owners.
David Bushyhead, historic sites keeper with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, attended both the seminar and workshop. As historic sites keeper, his duties are to locate, clear and maintain important sites, including gravesites.
“At this time, we have found all the past Cherokee chiefs gravesites and are now doing rock work around these sites along with headstones for the chiefs and their wives,” Bushyhead said. “With this workshop, I will be more efficient in the responsibility employed to me.” Several nationally-recognized experts worked together on the development and instruction for the seminar and workshop. The instructors included Norman Weiss, Irving Slavid, and Karl Munsen from Monument Conservation Collaborative of Colebrook, Connecticut; Fran Gale from PROSOCO of Lawrence, Kansas; Dennis Montagna from the National Park Service, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Mary Striegel and ElizaBeth Bede Guin from NCPTT.

A Matter of Priorities
The seminar and workshop both stemmed from one of NCPTT’s newly-established research priorities: meeting the preservation needs of houses of worship and cemeteries. Training was focused on monument conservation challenges common to the South. Based on demand, training events will be organized for other regions in the U.S.

The one-day seminar was held on May 13 at NCPTT and was attended by sixty-five participants from across the United States. The seminar provided a broad overview of issues facing those responsible for the conservation of cemetery monuments.

Dennis Montagna began the seminar with his presentation on various types of cemeteries and their value and importance as cultural landscapes. Norman Weiss followed with a presentation of the history of conservation in cemeteries and then a discussion of the range of monument materials often encountered.

Fran Gale extended the discussion of materials by speaking about the dominant deterioration mechanisms that occur with stone and masonry. Gale addressed the effects of environmental factors on cemetery monuments, including rain, pollution, groundwater, soluble salts, and biological growth.

Two sessions of the seminar were devoted to case studies. One session was entitled “Preservation Efforts Gone Bad” where inappropriate maintenance and conservation practices were illustrated and discussed.

The second session hailed various success stories. Also covered in the seminar was the preparation and implementation of preservation master plans and the development and use of conditions surveys. These discussions were led by Irving Slavid, ElizaBeth Bede Guin, and Dennis Montagna.

Mary Striegel presented professional responsibilities within a preservation team and sources of information on cemetery preservation.

The seminar also included two question-and-answer panel sessions in which the participants were encouraged to interact with both the instructors and fellow participants, share cemetery preservation experiences, and offer suggestions to increase knowledge about cemetery monument conservation.

Up Close and Personal
For participants interested in hands-on training in cemetery monument conservation, a two-day workshop followed on May 14-15 at the historic American Cemetery in Natchitoches. Thirty participants were selected for the workshop based on their applications. They hailed from eighteen states and the U.S. territory of Samoa and represented a wide range of cemetery preservation professions from local, city, state, tribal, and federal offices responsible for cemetery conservation to monument builders, cemetery associations, private industry, universities, and private cultural resource offices.

The workshop included hands-on condition assessment, safe handling procedures, and conservation treatments. The conservation treatments encompassed cleaning tests using water, hand-scrubbing with soft-bristle brushes, chemical methods, and low-pressure washing (less than 600 psi). Other hands-on treatments included the removal of failed repairs, resetting of a marker into its original base, adhesion of a marker with multiple breaks, the installation of fills, and curing/finishing techniques such as acid-washing fills.

Monumental Benefits
Two grave markers in the American Cemetery that had been broken in several pieces were reassembled and a new buried marker had been discovered by the end of the workshop. Also, stones were cleaned as part of the demonstrations.

Discussions during the workshop covered additional topics which included the use of other chemical treatments such as water-repellents, consolidants, and anti-graffiti coatings, the use of patching and grouting mixtures, the stabilization of foundations, the casting of new footings, and the resetting of markers. 



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Last Updated:  - Sunday March 18, 2007 -