As a facility, a cemetery is normally regarded as a final destination point for those who are buried within and, as a consequence, may often be forgotten when it comes to its maintenance. It's as if there's nothing more to say and people tend to move on with their own lives, preferring to cherish the memory of the individual rather than worry about the place they are laid to rest. While this is, of course, a general statement, there may be some truth to it when you consider just how many cemeteries around the country have fallen into a state of disrepair. If your local facility is one of these, how should you go about tackling cemetery restoration?
Most cemeteries represent a wealth of history and tradition and are often the last resting place for people from a wide variety of cultures. Consequently, the most important rule to remember when restoring these areas is to be sensitive. Only conduct any major repairs at or near to individual burial sites after first doing the appropriate amount of research.
Determining the Scale
The cemetery in question may be so old and steeped in mystery that it may not be easy to determine its boundaries. Where possible, pinpoint surrounding walls or gates that may have fallen into disrepair and have virtually disappeared. Look for other clues, so that you can begin to assess the scale of the work ahead. If you do discover evidence of these boundaries, they can give you a clue about the status of the people who may have been buried in the distant past. As an example, if you believe that there used to be a boundary fence made of cast iron, then this would indicate a more elaborate burial ground for those with more resources.
Be careful if you are planning to cut down any elaborate plants or smaller trees, as these may have historical significance themselves. It's possible that certain trees may have been planted as a memorial and you will need to be very sensitive before making alterations.
Many older cemeteries feature distinctive buildings, some of which are tied to individual burial sites, while others may have had some type of ceremonial or religious connotation. You can focus your attention on these structures, as they will be an integral part of the restoration once it is complete.
Bringing in the Community
Finally, reach out to families who have loved ones within the cemetery and especially those who you were previously unaware of, but may have been identified by markings on a headstone. Some of these stones may be revealed when you cut back overgrown vegetation, so it's important to bring in these families for their assistance.