Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So You've Decided to Visit a Cemetery

So You've Decided to Visit a Cemetery. Congratulations. No doubt you're all aquiver with anticipation of what you will find, expecting all sorts of good things. Not so fast! Before you go there are a few things you should do, or seriously consider doing, and/or bring.
  1. A camera
    • if you are sufficiently skilled bring UV and infra-red filters. I have never tried it but I suspect it would help to read some of the more eroded inscriptions.
  2. A soft paint brush.
  3. A plastic trowel.
  4. Some sort of probe, e.g. a hand held weed digger.
    • be extremely careful with this. I only recommend it to help you locate ground level markers that are overgrown or sunken and if they are made of granite. If you suspect marble then use the plastic trowel and fingers to uncover the marker.
  5. A spray bottle with lots of water both for cleaning, and to increase the contrast of carved and uncarved areas.
  6. Paper and pen for notes (or your choice of handheld device).
  7. Insect repellent.
  8. If you are going to a cemetery that may not be well maintained then clippers for grass/small branches can help.
  9. A GPS unit to mark exactly where your gravestones are so that you or other people can find the same headstone again.
Some things you should never do:
  1. Never clean a headstone of attached moss or lichen. Marble is especially fragile, and taking off the moss/lichen can remove bits (large or small) of marble too.
  2. Never re-attempt to assemble a headstone, you may chip the edges or otherwise damage it.
  3. Don't use wire brushes to clean off loose dirt or debris.
  4. Don't use any cleaner other than water. Even vinegar is an acid and can etch stone. Houshold cleaners and some soaps are worse.
  5. Never use sand to clean any headstone.
  6. Do not pry a headstone out of the ground, if there are hairline cracks, they can suddenly become less hairline, much to your regret.
When all is said and done, do no harm to the graveyard and headstones in it. If in doubt leave the headstone alone until you can find a willing archaeologist or conservator to help you.

You're all ready now. Have fun!

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