Saturday, May 4, 2013

Maine Old Cemetery Week, 2013

Maine Old Cemetery Association (MOCA) has announced attempts to re-establish Maine Old Cemetery Week, May 19-25, 2013, as part of its mission to encourage and support the preservation, maintenance, and study of old cemeteries.  

It has been noted by some members of the organization that the tradition of Maine families tending burial grounds during the Memorial Day weekend has fallen somewhat by the wayside in recent years. MOCA is encouraging local historical organizations, civic associations, Boy and Girl Scouts, Fraternal and Veterans groups to lead community projects to tend local burial grounds in hopes of reigniting interest in protecting and preserving local burial grounds.

While MOCA encourages the tidying of burial grounds, members of the public who lack appropriate training are asked to refrain from undertaking the cleaning of gravestones. Despite being made of stone, many grave markers—particularly early stones—are extremely fragile in nature and once damage is done, it is difficult and expensive to make effective repairs.  

While inappropriate cleaning methods, such as power washing or scrubbing stones with bleach and wire brushes may temporarily yield aesthetically-pleasing effects, these approaches result in irreparable damage to stone surfaces that can result in cracking, flaking, scaling, or granularization ("sugaring") of surfaces. Extensive loss of stone surface, of course, results in illegible inscriptions and the loss of historic information.

In response to a spate of cemetery thefts of tomb doors and metal gravestone fittings from remote Maine cemeteries in late 2012, MOCA instituted a new, online cemetery vandalism reporting tool. If, while participating in Maine Old Cemetery Week, incidents of cemetery vandalism or theft are discovered, people are encouraged to not only make reports to local authorities but to also file a report with MOCA by visiting and selecting the link, “Report Cemetery Vandalism.” Among information MOCA is gathering is locations, descriptions and photos of damage, estimates of damages (if known), and any planned repairs.