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If Cemeteries Could Talk What we could learn from a walk in the cemetery.

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Presentation on theme: "If Cemeteries Could Talk What we could learn from a walk in the cemetery."— Presentation transcript:

1 If Cemeteries Could Talk What we could learn from a walk in the cemetery

2 “Within Each community, cemeteries are among the most fascinating, richest, and often the most neglected sources of historical information. The age of the community, its ethnic composition and the impact made by immigration can be determined by investigating gravestones. The style of gravestone, the symbolism of their art and their inscriptions reflect religious beliefs, social class, values, as well as cultural change over time.” - Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

3 Burial Practices Burial practices vary from culture to culture and across time, for that reason we will confine our discussion to Western European or Euro- American practices. Burial practices vary from culture to culture and across time, for that reason we will confine our discussion to Western European or Euro- American practices.

4 What should I look for? Questions to ask… Available cemetery records alone do not tell the complete story. Available cemetery records alone do not tell the complete story. The inscription can tell us something about the individual. The inscription can tell us something about the individual. Symbols can often tell us about something they believed in or about an organization to which they belonged Symbols can often tell us about something they believed in or about an organization to which they belonged Grave placement or relative proximity – why was the person buried close to someone or separated by some distance? Is this a reflection of their place in a relationship while among the living? Grave placement or relative proximity – why was the person buried close to someone or separated by some distance? Is this a reflection of their place in a relationship while among the living? Are the families buried around them any relation? Are the families buried around them any relation?

5 Observe Were the internments (burials) in a section made at or about the same time? Were the internments (burials) in a section made at or about the same time? Judging from the birth and death dates were the people about the same age at the time of death? Judging from the birth and death dates were the people about the same age at the time of death? Do any of the dates coincide with known events in local history. (wars, famines, epidemics, floods or other natural disaster) Do any of the dates coincide with known events in local history. (wars, famines, epidemics, floods or other natural disaster) Does this section of the cemetery give evidence that it was set aside to receive members of the armed forces or clergy etc.? Does this section of the cemetery give evidence that it was set aside to receive members of the armed forces or clergy etc.?

6 Reasons for human burial Sanitation – avoid unpleasant odors from bacterial decomposition Sanitation – avoid unpleasant odors from bacterial decomposition Remove from view – remember appearance as it was in life Remove from view – remember appearance as it was in life Respect – remains are not open to visible decay or predation by animals Respect – remains are not open to visible decay or predation by animals Bring closure – pain of loss can be lessened (out of sight – out of mind almost) Bring closure – pain of loss can be lessened (out of sight – out of mind almost) Step in the process from life to an afterlife Step in the process from life to an afterlife

7 Burial Places Cremation while always the norm in India is growing among Western Cultures Cremation while always the norm in India is growing among Western Cultures Places also include: in mounds of earth, underground caverns and in temples Places also include: in mounds of earth, underground caverns and in temples Modern times – bury dead below ground with stone markers to mark the place - almost universal in western culture Modern times – bury dead below ground with stone markers to mark the place - almost universal in western culture

8 Marking the Location Serves two main purposes Serves two main purposes –Grave will not accidentally be exhumed –Contains information or tributes to the deceased Form of remembrance for loved ones Form of remembrance for loved ones Form of immortality Form of immortality

9 Marking contd. Marked grave = lasting memory, fondness & respect Marked grave = lasting memory, fondness & respect Unmarked grave = consignment to oblivion or an ignominious end, disdain and disrespect Unmarked grave = consignment to oblivion or an ignominious end, disdain and disrespect

10 Anonymous Burial Normandy France Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Washington D.C.

11 Secret Burial Walt Disney Walt Disney Eva Peron (Evita) Eva Peron (Evita)

12 Why study gravestones? History should include the lives of ordinary people and events History should include the lives of ordinary people and events Stones mark the graves of ordinary people Stones mark the graves of ordinary people Gravestones provide valuable information about family genealogy, local history, medical history, religious history and changing fashion in art and literature Gravestones provide valuable information about family genealogy, local history, medical history, religious history and changing fashion in art and literature The power of the cemetery is its call never to forget the loved ones who have gone before us The power of the cemetery is its call never to forget the loved ones who have gone before us

13 History & Development of Cemeteries 1620 – 1820’s - Church Yard cemeteries – follow British custom – in the church or “church yard” 1620 – 1820’s - Church Yard cemeteries – follow British custom – in the church or “church yard” – “rural” or “garden” cemetery movement – “rural” or “garden” cemetery movement –Three great gardens: Garden of Eden (place of creation – a beginning) –Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives (prayer, betrayal & transition to a new life) –Garden of the Holy Sepulcher (resurection,new life and reward) 1855 – 1920 – “lawn” and “memorial park” movement 1855 – 1920 – “lawn” and “memorial park” movement 1920 – present 1920 – present

14 Rural Cemeteries: Mt. Hope Cemetery Rochester Grave of Frederick Douglas

15 Forest Lawn: Buffalo NY Blocher Monument Birge Memorial

16 Cemetery Symbolism

17 Anchor

18 Angel

19 Broken Column

20 Celtic Cross

21 Dove

22 Draped Urn

23 Freemason’s

24 Hands

25 Ivy

26 Lamb

27 Lily

28 Lyre

29 Mound

30 Obelisk

31 Orb

32 Rose

33 Sarcophagus Forest Lawn

34 Sarcophagus – contd. Mount Calvary Cemetery

35 Torch

36 Tree Trunk

37 Urn

38 Willow Tree

39 GAR

40 Gravestones as Material Culture tell us something about the deceased. Views & Values

41 Negative view of death

42

43

44 Only slightly more positive

45

46

47 Positive View

48 Note: Picture of home in Germany pictured on face of stone

49 Proud Irish Heritage?? Shamrock & Image of St. Patrick

50 An image frozen in time. Looking out and beyond the grave. Note the open collar and leisure suit fashion of the 1970’s and early 80’s

51 Signature of last name & placement close together indicates probable relation.

52 A loving couple? Remembered that way for all time.

53 Father & Son / Brother & Uncle Note hair style and plaid shirt.

54 Hair style & beard typical of 1970’s

55 Interest or participation in sports for a 17 year old

56

57 The loss of a child cannot be replaced regardless of the beauty of the sculpture that marks the passing

58 The Lord said – “ the times when you have seen only one set of footprints my child, I have carried you!” Love is immortal

59 The inscription reads: “Molly tho pleasant in her day was suddenly seized and sent away. How soon she’s ripe because she’s rotten, sent to her grave and now forgotten The inscription reads: “Molly tho pleasant in her day was suddenly seized and sent away. How soon she’s ripe because she’s rotten, sent to her grave and now forgotten Inscriptions

60 Sears Catalog Tombstones

61 For Further Reading & Study Farrell, James J. Inventing the American Way of Death. Philadelphia: Temple University of Pennsylvania Press, Farrell, James J. Inventing the American Way of Death. Philadelphia: Temple University of Pennsylvania Press, French, Stanley. “The Cemetery as Cultural Institution: The Establishment of Mount Auburn and the “Rural” Cemetery Movement.” Stannard, David E., Editor, Death In America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, French, Stanley. “The Cemetery as Cultural Institution: The Establishment of Mount Auburn and the “Rural” Cemetery Movement.” Stannard, David E., Editor, Death In America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975.

62 Further Reading contd. Mitford, Jessica, The American Way of Death. New York: Simon and Schuster, Mitford, Jessica, The American Way of Death. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963.

63 Websites of Interest ml ml ml ml


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