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
“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
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.
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