In the past four years, I have done several presentations to historical and genealogical organizations who were interested in my work, or who wanted some instruction for their members before starting on a cemetery cleanup in their area.
I am willing to share my knowledge and experience with your group and do cemetery walks to advise you on what can be done by trained and willing volunteers; I will also hold training/workdays with members to demonstrate "best practices" in gravestone conservation. Similarly, if you would like for me to speak to your group, I have a PowerPoint presentation of some of my jobs and can follow up afterwards with a question-and-answer session for those wanting to learn more. While some conservation work should be reserved for a skilled conservator, many simple things like cleaning and straightening can be done by properly trained volunteers.
Contact me if you would like more information on either at 979-836-7715 OR
Presentations and Workshops
The following photos show the process to fabricate a base for a tablet-style stone. Click on the photo to read more.
The following photos show how a tablet is mortared into a socket base. Click on photo for caption.
Conservation and Old Repairs
Repairs made to gravestones in the early 20th century vary widely. Some were done well, while others were done by individuals with more ambition than skill. Almost all methods from 100 years ago have been supreceded by modern materials, tools and techniques, and sometimes the old repair can still be 'undone' to better conserve the stone.
Below are two photos of the same piece of a tablet stone. The person who repaired the stone the first time used Portland cement-based mortar as an adhesive to "glue" the two pieces together; in doing so, he did not clean the mortar from the lettering, and thus, covered it. The original repair failed and another was done later with a foaming glue which also failed. I was hired to conserve the stone, and while the stone was in my shop, I decided to carefully attempt to remove the mortar and allow the inscription to show. After four hours of work, the mortar was removed with no harm to the stone or the lettering.
I will post a photo of the stone when conservation is completed.
Due to the extreme heat, I am not working every day, and on days that I do work, I may not stay on site beyond 1 p.m. or so.
Thoughts for Summer
I was recently visiting a cemetery to inspect a stone for conservation work and I spoke with several workers who were taking a break.
The majority of cemeteries provide mowing and trimming, but do not do any work in regards to gravestones. When I asked about this, the worker said his crew will straighten some stones and several years ago had taken bleach and cleaned a number of headstones in the cemetery. While some may ask if this is important, household bleach is known to cause damage to marble and should never be used. (See U S gov't report on cleaning solutions in the "Links" section, and check under the section "Recommendations" of the report).
As well, in every cemetery that I know of, the stones are property of the family, even if the plots are not; would you allow someone to paint your house or automobile without your permission? Sadly, the bleach damage to the stone is not something that can be repaired, as it affects the material (marble) itself, not just the surface.
Check on policies and procedures at the cemeteries wherein your family is interred to see what they do and don't do. In many cases, they may not even be aware of such harmful things, and would be happy to follow the "best practices" in the field.
If you'd like more information, contact me at
(979) 836-7715, firstname.lastname@example.org
or browse my website.