Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in the Great State of Ohio

Dedicated to cemetery preservation in the great state of Ohio


"A cemetery may be considered as abandoned when all or practically all of the bodies have been Removed therefrom and no bodies have been buried therein for a great many years, and the cemetery has been so long neglected as entirely to lose its identity as such, and is no longer known, recognized and respected by the public as a cemetery. 1953 OAG 2978."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cemetery Workshop "101" - Learn Before You Pay - What to Watch Out For if You Go - Because Gravestone Cleaning Methods Matter!

This April, in Ohio, the weather is playing catch up with the date on the calendar, but soon when Spring is in full bloom and shortly afterward when we move on to early Summer, we will be reading announcements of hands-on cemetery workshops to be held in Ohio and in nearby states.  

Notice I didn't say what kind of cemetery workshops.  They could be billed as cemetery conservation, cemetery preservation, or cemetery restoration

Personally, I feel that the name chosen for a workshop doesn't matter nearly as much as what the practices are that will be taught by the instructor when the day of the workshop arrives.

Many of the readers of this blog will remember from past posts the main guidelines of what the harmful practices are that some professionals have used and promoted in their workshops, and sadly, going further with their more extensive full cemetery cleaning, re-setting, and repair work. 

As a reminder, most professionals, (i.e. those who operate at a professional level and conduct gravestone clean/re-set/repair work for a part-time or full-time occupation), have themselves undergone some initial training somewhere.  Some have attended classes with well known and highly respected organizations for their training -- and list those establishments to help bolster their resume in their brochures.  That should mean that they demonstrate and promote the practices that they learned.   

However, unfortunately, prior training does not necessarily translate into a guarantee that a professional will adhere to all of the “Best Practices of Do No Harm” principles that they were taught at those workshops where they got started on their learning.  They could be choosing easier and speedier shortcuts that are not at all approved or appropriate for gravestones.

For this post, we'll do a review of the Approved Do No Harm Cleaning Practices vs. the Unapproved and Harmful cleaning practices.
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The below chart is a Best Practices cleaning guide that offers help. Click on and enlarge size. 



A good way to determine if you should attend a certain workshop is to "ask before you go and learn before you pay" by contacting the person promoting the workshop. 

Because gravestone cleaning methods matter - ask the contact person specific questions to be sure only Do No Harm Practices will be taught; which definitely means No Nyalox bristle brushes on power drills or other aggressive/abrasive methods and tools!  
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Sharing a statement by:


Nathan A. Bevil - Community Planning & Preservation Manager
Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society):

"I have also worked with some cemeteries in the past, including those that have had some restoration work.  Most of the stones used, especially in older cemeteries, are extremely soft due to stone type and exposure to acid rain and nature in general.

Any abrasive method of cleaning is discouraged, much less using power tools.  Even power washing is discouraged, as this can deeply groove sandstone and marble.  Any cleaning of a gravestone must be taken with careful consideration.  I have seen enough stones that have deteriorated to the point that I would not even use a simple bristle brush.  Always conduct thorough research on the materials before undertaking a specific action, and feel free to contact our office for additional information.

In any case, power washing and power tools are always discouraged and can have disastrous results for historic gravestones.

If you have some specific cases you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact me
(nbevil@ohiohistory.org or at 614-298-2000).  I hope this information helps."

Nathan A. Bevil | Community Planning & Preservation Manager
Ohio History Connection | 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus, OH 43211

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